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8: Completing the Internship

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    This chapter focuses on the processes that occur as your internship comes to a close. The focus is on ending well with your clients and colleagues, final evaluations, and dealing with separating from the site. The material also includes some tips on how to handle a critique of your work.

    Key Words

    • Foreshadowing: To suggest in advance or beforehand, such as providing a hint, suggestion, or intimation about a future event.
    • Assessments and Evaluations: Assessments and evaluations are two ways of determining current status, especially the strengths and weaknesses, of an individual, process, or organization. They may take one of two forms. A formal assessment is often used at the site or by the instructor as a way of determining one’s degree of progress or overall performance at the site. An informal evaluation involves a more qualitative evaluation, such as a discussion or interview.

    The Process of Ending an Internship

    Ending an internship is a process, not just a single event that happens on the final day. The process of completing an internship can be both exciting and sad, meaning you may have mixed feelings about leaving. If so, that is known as “separation anxiety” and is entirely normal. In fact, having mixed feelings is often a sign of a good internship because, in that case, one is happy to move on but sad that many positive relationships may be ending. In this sense, the ending of an internship is more than just an end date.

    Typically, interns experience four major transitions when ending an internship: foreshadowing the end, assessment and evaluation, saying goodbye, and moving forward.

    Foreshadowing the End

    Even though you knew at the start that the internship must end, you may find yourself handling this transition differently from what you anticipated. For example, while your supervisor and co-workers will likely be aware of your end date at the internship site, your clients may not. Depending on the level of involvement you had with them, the clients must be made aware of your temporary position as a student intern. This awareness may have an impact on the short-term nature of your relationship with them, but providing clients with this information may help them prepare for this inevitable event.

    Even though you knew at the start that the internship must end, you may find yourself handling this transition differently from what you anticipated. For example, while your supervisor and co-workers will likely be aware of your end date at the internship site, your clients may not. Depending on the level of involvement you had with them, the clients must be made aware of your temporary position as a student intern. This awareness may have an impact on the short-term nature of your relationship with them, but providing clients with this information may help them prepare for this inevitable event.

    The end of an internship usually occurs in one of two ways. Traditional endings are the most common. They typically involve a final evaluation of some sort, short good-byes, and little or no future contact with the agency as the contract period ends.

    Non-traditional endings can take place in several ways. One is when a student is offered a job at the site after the internship ends. Another would be when a student is asked to volunteer after they complete their hours. Of course, an ending can occur when a student needs to change sites partway through the internship, although that situation is unusual.

    Positive non-traditional endings can make the ending process for the student intern even more rewarding. For instance, sometimes interns are offered an actual position at the site, which creates a pleasant transition rather than a definite ending. Those who end traditionally can also have a good experience even if there is no job offer. After all, a formal conclusion usually signals that you have done good work and taken another step toward your goals.

    If you want to reinforce how the site is a part of your network, it is possible to make sure that the supervisor has an updated copy of your resume when you leave. After all, that individual will have contacts with other supervisors or agencies, and having a copy makes it easier to pass along when you are looking for jobs!

    Assessments and Evaluations


    Self-evaluation is essential throughout an internship because this process allows you to notice your style, make adjustments, see your growth, and learn how to better take care of your most valuable tool in human services work, namely, yourself. However, this type of evaluation plays a more prominent role as the internship draws to a close. Naturally, endings invite people to reminisce, evaluate, and reflect on the experience. Hopefully, there were parts of the internship that were enjoyable. Perhaps you notice a substantial increase in both your competence and confidence. Of course, it is also likely that some awkward or unpleasant things happened as well. They are probably best understood as “side effects” of the learning process as they often involve making mistakes or working through a difficult period.

    Useful self-assessments do require a certain degree of honesty about yourself and your contributions during the internship -- good, bad, and in between. Being honest in this way also helps one to discover new insights and learn from the success and mistakes made during the internship. This type of openness to your experience is also essential for identifying the skills you have, as well as those that you need to acquire or refine. Being honest with yourself, including not being overcritical, often helps people see and appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of their styles.

    Accurate self-assessment can also provide paths to discovering your real interests, talents, values, and abilities. Even an unexciting and unsatisfying internship can be helpful in this regard because sometimes learning what you do not like is important, too. Both positive and negative internship experiences can help you find your way to a satisfying career path.

    An excellent place to start in the self-evaluation process would to reflect on the beginning of the internship, back when you are looking for a site. The internship site is supposed to allow you to start getting the experience you need to become a good human services professional. Looking back to the very beginning of your internship experience, enables you to see how far you have come and reflect on what skills you have learned.

    Another part of the process can be to identify significant events, interactions, and other “lessons” you experienced or learned at the agency. These types of phenomena are “teachable” (or more appropriately “learnable”) moments. Often, they are the times you discover some things of real value, such as a skill, a way of speaking or presenting yourself, or even clues that foreshadow something that is likely to occur.

    Endings are also a good time for reflection. Everyone has a personal style when it comes to dealing with “termination,” as it is called in the psychodynamic literature, and saying goodbye, so it is important to recognize that. After all, you will have many of them in your career, especially with clients. Understanding how you respond to separation will help you deal with the inevitable conclusion of the internship. The most important thing is to deal with this part of the transition with a reasonable degree of tact, honesty, and optimism as these characteristics may make the transition easier for all parties.

    Of course, people tend to handle emotions in their own ways. Some individuals may have a harder time leaving the internship site because of the bonds they have formed while working there. A positive way to view these feelings is to remember that you could be moving onto bigger and better things. There are other bonds to be made and more clients that need assistance from human services professionals. Recognizing your feelings allows you to be aware of your compassion as you work in that specialized field. A good self-assessment can help you discover your clinical interests, which can facilitate your professional development.

    Formal Performance Evaluations

    Some internships include formal evaluations for your supervisor to fill out before you finish at the site. They may even play a part in the grade you will receive for the course. Few people like being assessed by others, so it is essential that during this process you remain flexible and open to the supervisor’s opinions. If the supervisor does not initiate a meeting to discuss the results, you may want to suggest one.

    Whether you have a formal or informal performance evaluation, some disagreements at this point are common because no two people will see a situation in the same way. Understanding the reasoning behind the supervisor’s assessment of your performance will provide valuable information and probably a peace of mind as well. You should expect that criticisms are a part of the process, and knowing that possibility in advance can help.

    Some individuals find it more difficult to deal with criticism than others. You might want to keep in mind that the site supervisor is trying to help you improve in the areas you are weak. Just remember that the evaluation is not the end of the world. Take a deep breath and listen to what the supervisor has to say. While being critiqued by others can be difficult, it is an effective way to gain insight about your strengths and weaknesses from the point of view of someone with significant field experience.

    Seeing how others perceive you can be a valuable source of information, but it is important to remember that many outside factors can influence a supervisor’s evaluation, too. For example, supervisors may have a style that clashes with yours. Like you, they can have a busy or a bad day. Moreover, some students have “A-itis,” which is to say that they think they must always do exceptionally well or something is wrong with them.


    The final stage of ending an internship is making the actual separation. Completing an internship can be accompanied by feelings of loss and sadness as well as satisfaction with a job well-done as you move closer to achieving your career goals. Ending relationships with clients may be more challenging because each client is different. Some may be more anxious about the separation and react more strongly to it than others. If you have any concerns about separating from the clients, bring it up with the supervisor as soon as possible. It could be helpful for you to tell the clients a few weeks before your departure to allow the clients more time to prepare for it. Sometimes, for instance, they may need to be referred to another worker or group to maintain continuity of care, and you can play a key role in that process for them.

    It is also time to say goodbye to the colleagues with whom you have been working and learning from over the past few months. Goodbye does not necessarily mean “the end” because every relationship you establish can become a part of your network. However, endings do mean that interactions will likely be less frequent. Never forget to say “Thank you” to everyone who allowed you to shadow them and to those who supervised you throughout your internship time. You may want to send a thank you card to a few key people at the agency. This once common practice has declined in recent years but is still a powerful way of showing respect and leaving people with a positive reminder of you. Remember, the internship may be one of your most valuable learning experiences in the field of human services and can follow you into the future.

    Just like ending the internship is a process, so is finishing the classroom part of it. Often, the class will include a final exam, paper, or project. The last meeting of the class may also signify a change in your relationships with your colleagues, especially if graduation follows. Everything we said about endings so far applies here as well. Indeed, you are likely to have spent meaningful time with your classmates and instructor, who are now your colleagues. Colleagues and instructors can be essential parts of your continuing network as you move forward. For example, you may need a recommendation from your instructor someday or perhaps one of your fellow students can alert you to a job possibility in the future. Consequently, it makes good sense to have meaningful and positive transitions here, as well.

    Moving Forward

    It is natural to form connections and attachments with people and projects as you advance through various phases of life. As you leave behind rewarding experiences and valued relationships, it is well to remember that change is both natural and inevitable. Growing and evolving require moving on and attempting new things.

    Remember that there are many new and exciting possibilities ahead, like chapters in a book. They offer different opportunities for positive involvement with new people and new paths for you to explore. With each step taken, you will continue to learn more about yourself and your unique style. As a part of this never-ending process, you will discover things to change or improve on. Your increased self-awareness will help you take the next step in your professional evolution as well. Over time, you will help make the world a better place, especially for your clients and the general public.

    Throughout this internship, you may have had to overcome personal, economic, and professional challenges. No doubt you made some mistakes, but you learned a lot as well. It is important to remember the failures, or at least learn from them so that you do not repeat them. However, positive psychology indicates that there is value in focusing on success. It is also important to realize that with each step moving forward, you will encounter a new set of challenges and learn more advanced skills.

    When you complete the hours necessary for your internship, it is often useful to look back again at the time you spent at your site. Think of the people you met and the things you learned. If you are not going on to a job, then you might consider volunteering to work at your site or in another part of the agency or field. Volunteering in a variety of settings that interest you might be an excellent way to develop a better sense of what you would like to do, while at the same time adding to your network and resume.

    Now the formal evaluation is over, the goodbyes are done, and you have completed your class. No matter where you were at the beginning of the course, you have improved as a professional, and perhaps as a person. It is now time to reward yourself in whatever ways are meaningful to you.

    Challenges Along the Way

    When you complete your internship, you could be offered a job. However, you have come to realize that this is not the area of human services in which you’d like to work. Of course, it’s acceptable to decline politely. But, make sure that you thank the agency for the opportunity to learn there. You may explain that you wish to continue your education or that you prefer to find a job in a different area of human services. Although you are declining the offer, it does not have to mean you are ending your internship on a wrong note. In short, you want to make sure that you are on good terms with the people at your internship site. They can be a valuable part of your professional network.

    Tools for Chapter 8

    Activity 1: Self Assessments

    Self-assessments come in different formats and styles. Here is an example of a self-assessment questionnaire that is helpful for doing a comprehensive review of your experience.

    • Place of internship/Type of organization?

    Example: Criminal justice or health and human services.

    • Job responsibilities and observations at the site?

    Example: Identify or list them.

    • Were you able to observe/apply theories and concepts from previous class instruction?

    Example: Identify or list them.

    • How were you able to assist/benefit the organization?

    Example: Describe them.

    • Accomplishments/new skills you learned and were able to apply?

    Example: Identify, list, or describe them.

    • What areas/type of work were you most comfortable with?

    Example: Identify or list them.

    • Were there any areas or aspects of the work you were not comfortable with?

    Example: Identify or list them and then reflect on why they felt this way to you.

    • Did the type of work interest you in seeking employment in that area of Human Services?

    Example: If so, why? If not, why not?

    • Did the internship experience make you want to learn and apply more skills?

    Example: Identify and list them.

    • Did the internship experience make you interested in pursuing another area of human services?

    Example: If so, what area(s), and why did it (they) appeal to you?

    • What were you especially satisfied with in terms of developing your professional abilities from this internship experience?

    Example: Think about the real “takeaways” from your experience.

    • Were you able to create professional contacts and expand your network?

    Example: Identify or describe new people or resources for the future.

    • Did you meet your personal or educational goals for the internship?

    Example: What were they, and how did you reach them?

    • List new goals you may want to obtain after the internship experience.

    Example: Reflect on future possibilities you now might have in the field.

    Activity 2: Separation

    Although you may be experiencing mixed emotions about leaving your site, there are many more opportunities in your future career as a human services professional. Right now, however, it is time to say goodbye, and you find yourself struggling with the whole idea of continuing your education and finding someplace to work. Perhaps, you may second guess yourself and wonder if this is the path for you. What can you do to help ease the anxiety you are feeling to carry through with your plans as you say your goodbyes? There are four courses of action you can take. Reflect on them and be sure to identify which one is likely to result in the least benefit.

    • Take some time to think about other endings you have experienced (both good and bad) in life. Reflect on them and consider what parts made them difficult, and then realize that more exciting things are on the horizon.
    • Think about the internship experience and all the positives you hope to take with you as you continue your education in that field.
    • Share the good and bad moments from your internship with your colleagues who shared experiences with you along the way.
    • Celebrate the ending, say your goodbyes, and leave.

    Activity 3: Dealing with Feedback

    Let us say your internship was the first real professional experience for you. Most of the time, you felt overwhelmed but did enjoy the learning experiences you gained and how you were able to apply some of the lessons and theories you have learned throughout your education so far. You found yourself asking lots of questions and took the time to document what you learned after you completed your hours. You were helpful and offered to do extra tasks to help the employees in whatever way you could. Your supervisor’s final evaluation of you, however, left you feeling insecure about your abilities.

    When going over the evaluation, you notice that it did not point out anything you specifically did wrong, but it did not offer any positive comments either. Your instructor told you it was not a bad evaluation, and that the site supervisor wants you to continue with your education to develop the necessary skills to be human services professional. You become disheartened. Ask yourself if you are being too sensitive about not receiving positive feedback. Discuss your thoughts with your classmates. What would they do differently? Were there any similarities between your views and theirs?

    Activity 4: Matching

    1. _____ Non-Traditional Ending

    2. _____ Self-Evaluation

    3. _____ Foreshadowing

    4. _____ Traditional Ending

    5. _____ Networking

    6. _____ Personal Style

    A. You must evaluate yourself and point out your good qualities and the qualities that you could improve on. This evaluation provides you with valuable feedback.
    B. You are getting close to the end of your internship, and your supervisor asked you to apply for a part-time position the agency has available. You may be ending your internship hours, but you get to start a job that will help you with your human services career path.
    C. This can affect how you say goodbye and the way you deal with endings in general.
    D. You know that your time at the site is about halfway over. You also realize that some of the clients seem to have a hard time with endings. In response, you gently start to mention to them that the end of the semester is approaching in a few weeks.
    E. You and your supervisor are anticipating your future departure from the agency. You both knew there would be an end and to prepare for it. You make sure they have a copy of your resume and ask the staff for their cards.
    F. You finish your required internship hours and choose not to stay at the facility after completion. You say your goodbyes and do not return as you now focus on the next step in your career.

    Answers: 1B, 2A, 3D, 4F, 5E, 6C

    This page titled 8: Completing the Internship is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Christopher J. Mruk & John C. Moor (Bowling Green State University Libraries) .

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