Intern Experience and Building Social Capital

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About this sample


Words: 1712 |

Pages: 4|

9 min read

Published: Aug 4, 2023

Words: 1712|Pages: 4|9 min read

Published: Aug 4, 2023

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Lessons from Being an Intern
  3. Exploring Social Capital
  4. Intern Experience and Professional Behavior
  5. Strategies for Building Social Capital
  6. Conclusion
  7. Works Cited


This quarter, I had the unique opportunity to choose an organization and gain intern experience to complete a project or solve a business issue in one organization. I am completing my internship at Alchemika Salon, owned by Terry Barnes. Terry’s salon is unique in the fact that she works with a third party, Green Circle Salons, to reduce and repurpose salon waste, including used foils, color-tubes, extra hair color, glass, hair clippings, paper, and plastic. (Green Circle Salons, 2020)

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Lessons from Being an Intern

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, salons fall under a sector labeled “Other Services (except Public Administration) sector”.(U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020) This internship has allowed me to reflect on how my internship experiences relate to the various dimensions of social capital and professionalism. It has caused me to reflect on how norms in this industry are different than I anticipated, as well as observe behaviors that have led to social capital development or underdevelopment. Additionally, I, it has given me the opportunity to analyze how those methods of building social capital would play out in another context. Lastly, it has allowed me to evaluate my own plan for building social capital with the remaining time left in this internship.

Exploring Social Capital

Social capital is a complex concept and contains three dimensions, relational, cognitive and structural social capital. The relational aspect of social capital includes trust and norms and directly relates to discourse. How we interact with our family, friends, and community members shapes our primary discourse. How we function in our primary discourse, in turn, affects how we interact with others in a secondary discourse, in my case it would be how I behave and communicate with those in the salon, including my sponsor. (Claridge, 2019)

When I think about it my discourses, being in the classroom in the BASAM program has impacted the way I behave in my other current secondary discourse, the salon. In this context, I have taken on a more formal method of communication, dressing and behaving because of the influence of my experiences in my secondary discourse, being in the classroom.

I have noticed a link between the cognitive dimension of social capital and my internship as well. At Terry's salon, there is a plaque from the Bellingham Herald. It displays an article that was posted in the Herald about Alchemika Salon. The article discusses how Terry’s business focuses on being environmentally sustainable and conscious of the waste her salon produces. At one of our meetings, I asked my sponsor about the plaque and its backstory. She told me about her experience with reaching out to the Bellingham Herald and the significance of the piece. This relates to the cognitive dimension of social capital because at some point Terry had to categorize individuals in the Bellingham Herald as a group that would care about the efforts, she is making to reduce waste and be environmentally conscious.

Intern Experience and Professional Behavior

My experiences with this internship have allowed me to see real-life examples of professional behavior in the workplace. Two examples of professional behavior I have noticed in my internship have occurred at my meetings with my sponsor. My internship sponsor has shown professional behavior by always keeping her commitments. My sponsor is the sole owner of her business and only employs one other stylist. She is extremely busy, but there has never been a time in which she has “flaked” on meeting with me.

My context in this internship environment is a bit unusual because Terry is my personal stylist. Going from being a role as a client to an intern has given me a new perspective and caused me to reflect on how the norms in this context are different than I anticipated. I have noticed that how my internship sponsor dresses is less casual than I expected, oftentimes in other salons I have seen stylists wear yoga pants and t-shirts and open-toed shoes. Her behavior and communication style with her clients and coworkers are also more formal than I expected. That is something I admire about my internship sponsor, she has a quiet grace in her actions and maintains her professionalism at all times. Additionally, I expected her communication style and behavior to be more relaxed and causal based on other salons I have been in.

Based on these observations, a change I am wanting to make to adapt to this environment is to interact with my sponsor in a way that is more formal and professional. At first, it was been challenging for me to adapt to this new type of interaction with my sponsor because I know her on a personal level. At the same time, it has been easy to adapt to because we both understand the larger implication of this project, being an internship through the college.

To meet this goal, I have been dressing in business casual, arriving at our meeting ten to fifteen minutes early, and have set a verbal agenda for our meetings beforehand. I have been providing a summary at the end of each visit by stating where we are at with the project, which includes what I need from her that week, and what I will be completed on my behalf. To further demonstrate my professionalism, I would like to outline the goals of each meeting beforehand.

My internship experience has made it possible for me to be able to observe behaviors that have led to social capital development or underdevelopment in this context. The first example and social capital development I have observed in this internship is the relationship my sponsor has with the Mount Vernon Downtown Association. Terry works closely with the Mount Vernon Downtown Association, they sponsor events that feature her salons like the Ladies Night out Downtown Sip and Shop, Ladies Night Outdoor prize, and Sidewalk Sale.

The second example of social capital development I have observed has been the relationship Terry has with Green Circle Salons. Terry has a reciprocal relationship with Green Circle Salons, a vendor from the company comes and picks up salon waste periodically from her salon. In exchange, Green Circle Salons feature her salons on their Green Salon Directory.

An example of social capital underdevelopment I have observed has been my internship sponsor's use of Instagram. At a few of our meetings, Terry has told me that she finds it less user-friendly to utilize Instagram for her social media marketing and prefers Facebook. This is because Instagram sometimes resizes and crops photos so it can be challenging to display pictures on the platform. To me, this is an example of undeveloped social capital because Instagram is a great tool when you are trying to build connections with other local businesses, and it is not being utilized for this purpose, as much as it could be.

Strategies for Building Social Capital

I believe that the practices my internship sponsor used to build social capital would be effective in another context because they involve a mutual give and take, trust and collaboration with both local and non-local organizations. The only practice I do not believe would be effective in another context would be not using Instagram to its fullest potential. Instagram gives users the tools to expand the number of people they are reaching, and it highly engaging to its users because of its visual content. Social Media use is exploding, and how businesses are connecting with others and is a part of a larger trend that businesses have to adapt to stay competitive. According to Leslie-Jean Thornton in her paper, Social capital, community ties, and Instagram, “As of July 2013, with 130 million active monthly users (according to figures posted on Instagram’s site) and a reported 10% month-over-month growth rate (Isaac, 2013).” (Thornton, Leslie-Jean,2017)

My experiences working with Terry have allowed me to reflect on how I will continue to build social capital in this internship, and plan for ways in which I can refine my approach to building social capital. The first way in which I will improve my approach will be to make a plan to follow up on connections and introductions that I receive from mentors and leaders in my life.

At one of our first meetings, my sponsor told me that this project could lead to more development of social capital for me. She said she knew many business leaders in Skagit County and said that they would be interested in hearing about the kind of work I am doing with this internship. To me, this could lead to social capital development if I follow through with staying in contact with my sponsor after the internship ends. It will be challenging to follow up with her on connecting me with these business leaders because I am more introverted and anxious about “bugging people” when they offer help or connections. I think this anxiety stems from not fully knowing how the business discourse operates yet. Being a student, I feel a little out of depth because I am early on in my career and have not had much experience operating in a more formal business setting.

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In the future, I plan on setting a date in which I have to contact the individual that offered the connection or resource. My rationale for this action is that by setting a deadline in which I have to reach out to that individual, I can keep myself accountable. The second way I will improve my approach is by addressing my anxiety, by practicing having these follow-up conversations independently or with someone that supports me. My rationale for this is that practicing these conversations beforehand can make it easier for me to feel more comfortable when I am talking to my sponsor about these connections. I find that I am most comfortable when I feel adequately prepared for a situation, so that would help me in doing so.

Works Cited

  1. “About the Other Services (except Public Administration) sector.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 7 Feb. 2020,
  2. Claridge, Tristan. “Structural, Cognitive, Relational Social Capital.” Social Capital Research & Training, 22 Apr. 2019,
  3. Environmentally Friendly Salons.” Green Circle Salons, Green Circle Salons, 2020,
  4. Isaac, M. (2012, September 27). Instagram beats Twitter in daily mobile users for the first time, data says. All Things D. Retrieved from
  5. Thornton, Leslie-Jean. (2017). Shared views: Social capital, community ties, and Instagram.
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Intern Experience and Building Social Capital. (2023, August 04). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 1, 2024, from
“Intern Experience and Building Social Capital.” GradesFixer, 04 Aug. 2023,
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