From Intern to Employee: Professional Advice from Former AEI Interns
Hands on experience. Mentorship. A chance to collaborate with working professionals.
These are all things a good internship should offer you, but the internship experience can vary greatly depending on the industry, company, and the type of responsibilities.
AEI offers several different engineering internships that gives interns the opportunity to work on projects across a wide variety of markets. But, how does an AEI internship prepare you for your professional career? What can you do to make sure you are getting the most out of your internship?
Let’s explore the internship experiences of four former AEI interns that eventually became full-time AEI employees – and see what key takeaways they learned as an intern that helped their professional careers.
1. Embrace Challenges
When asked what he remembered the most about his AEI internship experience, Peter, currently an electrical designer with AEI’s Madison office, responded, “Ask lots of questions and receive lots of answers. I would describe it as a slow process that involves lots of on-the-job learning, at least for someone coming from a similar school path and having no prior MEP experience, That being said, the variety of project types makes that slow process worth it if you stick with it.”
2. Seize Learning Opportunities
Take advantage of the opportunities that are offered to you, including the ones that may not directly relate to your day-to-day tasks. Let your supervisor(s) know if you are interested in expanding your skillset or learning more about how to apply class-based learning to real-time projects. Internships are the ideal time to explore multiple aspects of the engineering world.
Another former intern was interested in two different disciplines and was able to explore both paths. “The most rewarding thing was being able to work on building performance tasks as well as electrical tasks. Because I was interested in both departments, AEI allowed me to work with both. One day I would lay out electrical rooms, size equipment, or participate in a site visit, and the next day I would be working on energy modeling,” says Electrical Engineer Amanda.
“I was able to use an AEI project as the basis for my master’s thesis, performing an electrical system harmonic mitigation study of the VFD (variable frequency drive) loads in a research laboratory building. This was a challenging topic that gave me useful experience that I still use in my projects to this day.”
3. Look for the “Big Picture”
When asked if there was something they learned as an intern that they still apply to their professional careers, understanding how to effectively collaborate with others, and stepping back to look at the “big picture” seemed to be key for many young engineers.
“Your day-to-day tasks as an intern can sometimes involve only a small portion of the larger project. Take time to learn and understand the whole project, review the basis of design and specifications,” says Mechanical Engineer Noah, concluding, “Forming a perspective for how the overall project looks is invaluable when first getting started in this industry.”
In the end, AEI interns continue to have the unique opportunity to contribute to impactful and complex projects; collaborate with engineers, project managers, and principles alike; and gain a great understanding of what it’s like to work in the AEC industry. Asking questions, being flexible, and learning how to effectively collaborate in a professional setting will help ensure a successful internship experience.