Internships – Beyond Your Project

By: Kirsi

Intern beyond project

Source: Unsplash | Jeremy Thomas


Recording data from my summer Co-Op project.

At the beginning of the summer I wrote a post about how to make the most out of your summer career experience expanding on getting to know your workplace before you get there, setting goals related to your project and establishing good habits. These points focus primarily on you growing your career experience and your project assigned by your department. The organization where you are interning/ Co-Oping will likely host other students, be comprised of other departments and be one of several locations around the nation or even world. Connecting with these three aspects will help you grow more in your career and also help you stand out beyond your project’s success. In this post I will talk about connecting with fellow Coterns (slang for Co-Ops and interns), connecting with your organization and connecting with your organization’s locations around the world.


I present about tips on writing a resume. Photo by NASA Cotern.

Connect with Fellow Coterns

This summer I Co-Oped at NASA Johnson Space Center which hosted over 100 interns and over 25 Co-Ops. Johnson has a unique Cotern group that autonomously organizes itself into committees that are either professional development focused or social networking focused. Every other week these committees take turns presenting about NASA sports league competitions, filming times for the student video, upcoming lectures by NASA leaders and volunteering opportunities. Depending on your company’s size similar professional and social committees may exist, otherwise, you can start your own! This summer fellow Coterns and I hosted the Professional Development Committee. We held a workshop on resumes and cover letters, a workshop on LinkedIn and networking, and there were many Ted Talk viewings during lunch. To get an audience we bribed Coterns with lemonade, doughnuts, and cookies. If you are not confident in giving workshops on a professional development aspect inviting Coterns to view Ted Talks during lunch with discussion after is an awesome way to provide helpful content without being an expert.


Coffee with NASA Johnson Center and Deputy Directors. Photo by NASA.

Connect with the Organization

Randomly, I was selected among Coterns, employees, and NASA contractors to have coffee with Johnson Center Director Ellen Ochoa and Deputy Director Mark Geyer. Above I am pictured to the left of Ochoa in a red blazer and I look pretty serious writing notes. This was an awesome opportunity to learn about the Directors’ vision for NASA’s future, hear other departments’ concerns and represent Coterns by sharing a student point of view. There is no need to wait for an invitation to coffee to learn more about your organization. Keep an eye on when “All Hands” meetings are held (updates on department and organization wide progress), mission/ new product debriefs, and department open houses. Ask your mentor what other departments work on projects you may be interested in and ask about getting in touch with them. Ask a fellow Cotern about their department and ask them to give you a tour of their workplace in return for a tour of your lab/workspace. Ask and you shall receive.


Tram tour through NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility.

Connect with Other Organization Locations

NASA Johnson, although known for the Apollo 13 “Houston, we’ve had a problem“, is not the only NASA Center. I led a group of students in biweekly video chats with some of our sister NASA Centers – Glenn, Goddard, Kennedy, Langley, and Stennis. Connecting with the other locations of your organization is valuable because you are likely collaborating on different aspects of the same projects. Johnson Coterns traveled to New Orleans to meet with Stennis Coterns, tour their site, and tour the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility where Space Launch System is being built. Getting to know Coterns from other locations is an opportunity to meet students with similar interests, exposes you to other places you may like to intern next, and contributes to the cohesiveness of the whole organization. Consider taking a weekend trip to another location of your organization (like its headquarters) or host another group at your location. If a weekend trip is logistically not possible consider Skype meetings with sister location Coterns.


Fellow Co-Op Adam Bass presenting about networking.

While your project’s success should be the priority of your internship/ Co-Op making time for connecting with fellow Coterns, the organization and other locations can help you grow in your career.

Of Possible Interest

Read Kirsi’s other posts
All photos are Kirsi’s unless otherwise designated.

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