Internships may come and go, but – if you let them – the connections you make can last a lifetime. Whether you’re dying to hear what’s going on at your old stomping ground or hoping to get a stellar recommendation, staying in contact with old bosses is absolutely imperative. However, there is a fine line between keeping in touch and being that intern. With our rules, you’ll be networking like a pro.
Rule 1: Never underestimate the power of networking
If the internship is already on your resume, why do you need to reconnect with them? Believe it or not, touching base with your employers after your internship is possibly just as important as the internship itself. “The best part about having a great relationship with your former boss is that they can also open doors outside your old company,” says Ginny Soskey, a marketing manager at Shareaholic who also presents networking workshops to collegiettes. If your old supervisor hears about an internship opportunity, who do you think he or she will email first: the girl who packed her bags and ran for the hills or the girl who still keeps in touch?
Rule 2: Touch base with your supervisor before you leave (if you still can)
Set yourself apart from the rest by contacting your boss while you’re still interning. Um, what? Getting some sacred one-on-one time will instantly put you ahead of the curve. “Try setting up a meeting with your boss before you leave so you can get feedback on how you did at the internship,” says Soskey. “At the meeting, you can get an idea of whether your boss may want to stay in touch and help you with your next internship or job search.” Not to mention the feedback will help you in the future!
Rule 3: The sooner you reconnect, the better
Nothing says, “I’m merely using you for your status and connections” more than shooting your old boss an email right before you begin your next internship search or need to submit a recommendation letter. Can we say manipulative? “You shouldn’t just be reaching out to your former boss when you want or need something,” says Kelly Forde, a career specialist at Boston University’s College of Communication. “Assuming you left on good terms, I would say reconnect within two months.” Since you’re not waiting until you need something from them, you’re showing your old employer that you genuinely want to touch base.
Rule 4: Touch base with your employer every few months
So how often should you contact your old boss? Even if you secretly wish that you were besties with your supervisor, once every few months will suffice. “You want to make sure that they don’t forget you and you certainly want them to remember you,” says Forde. But what are you supposed to say? Simply asking your old supervisor how everything is in the office or updating them on your life at school will do the trick. If the two of you bonded over something during the summer - say, your mutual love for Pretty Little Liars - don’t be afraid to bring it up. Just when you think your internship is history, a simple email or tweet will remind your ex-boss of all the amazing things you did!
Rule 5: Show how much you still appreciate your internship
Now that you’ve nailed the appropriate timeframe, what’s next? Another easy way to get the conversation rolling is to let your old boss know that your internship made a difference in your life. “I would always make sure to stay positive and reference specific things you learned from your former boss and give examples of how that is helping you in your new position,” says Forde. Whether learning Photo Shop last summer helped you in your graphic design class or your social media- filled internship turned you into a Twitter pro, your boss will love that you appreciate the little things. Just don’t forget to ask how everything in the office is – the conversation shouldn’t just be about you!
Rule 6: If you can, visit the office
Though everyone loves a thoughtful email, nothing beats face time. “In high school, I interned for a designer,” says Hannah Orenstein, a student at New York University. “Once or twice a year, I make a point to visit her at her showroom to see how she’s doing.” Whether you quickly drop off a cup of coffee or help out with a task, your old boss will appreciate that you took the time to pay a visit. Just remember to plan the visit in advance – your old supervisor won’t appreciate an impromptu catch-up session, especially if he or she is swamped with work or in a meeting!
Rule 7: Utilize your favorite social media sites
While not every boss is a social media maven, there’s a big chance that your old supervisor is pinning, tweeting, Instagramming – you get the picture – just like you! If you know that your old employer is obsessed with everything virtual, follow him or her on several platforms. “Facebook may be a little too personal, but as long as your Twitter and LinkedIn are relatively professional, those social channels are a good way to casually touch base with old employers,” says Alexandra Churchill, a recent graduate of the University of New Hampshire. Even though your interning days at that company are over, you still need to respect proper digital etiquette. We don’t care how close you were with your old boss, he or she shouldn’t know about that terrible hangover from last night. Go the extra mile by sporadically retweeting some of your former boss’s tweets – it’ll serve as a subtle reminder that you’re keeping tabs on his or her life. Just remember to not retweet anything too personal. When in doubt, focus on professional tweets – you’ll thank us later.
Rule 8: Stay updated with the company’s latest achievements
Whether you loved your internship or loathed it since day one, you now have this eternal connection with the company. Sounds scary? You know it’s true. Since you know what goes on behind the scenes, at least a little part of you is interested in the company’s latest endeavors. So why not shoot your old supervisor an email when you come across one of their latest achievements? Staying updated can be as easy as sporadically checking the company’s website, following them on Twitter or liking them on Facebook. “For my boss from my time volunteering at London 2012 Ceremonies last spring, I emailed her after each Olympic and Paralympic ceremony aired this summer to show her that, though I was across the ocean, I was still with them in spirit,” says Darci Miller, a collegiette from the University of Miami. Don’t worry collegiettes: you don’t have to email them after every issue or business deal – an email about a development that you really care about shows initiative and genuine enthusiasm. Not only is this a great icebreaker, it shows that you’re still interested in the company.
Rule 9: Don’t be a stage five clinger
There’s being an attentive former intern, and then there’s the intern who takes the relationship a little too far. Constant emails, tweets and Facebook likes? No thank you! Instead, know when enough is enough by gauging your supervisor’s responses. “I’d suggest not sending more than a few unanswered emails in a row to avoid being clingy,” says Soskey. “Don’t like every one of their Foursquare check-ins, but it’s fine to retweet or mention them on Twitter every once in a while.” Remember that you want your old boss to be excited to hear from you, not contemplating a life in the Witness Protection Program.
Rule 10: Remember to stay in touch with old colleagues too
Though all the networking hype is centered around keeping in touch with your old boss, it’s also important to remember the little people: your co-interns. After months of laughter, tears and hard work, your co-interns may know you better than your boss does. So why wouldn’t you reconnect with them? “Building and maintaining a robust professional network is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your career,” says Forde. “Former colleagues can be as influential as supervisors, so make sure you keep connected with everyone you have worked with.” Since a relationship between two interns is usually less formal than one with your old boss, feel free to send a text or Facebook message. For a professional kick, connect with them on LinkedIn as well. You never know: your co-intern may help you score your dream job one day!
All these rules are intimidating, right? Wrong! The most important rule is to be yourself. Your former employer already knows and likes you – unless you committed a major intern faux pas, that is. With that in mind, go forth and network!