Landing your dream internship is only the first step to becoming a dream intern, so hopefully you’ve gotten the hang of it by now. But whether you figured out that problematic coffee machine from day one and you’ve been kicking butt all summer, or you’ve finally found your comfort zone and only recently begun to shine, the end of your internship is an especially important time to keep up your momentum and finish strong. Here’s how to leave a lasting impression on your supervisors and make the most of your internship before it ends.
1. Keep your energy up. You may have listened to Kanye’s “Stronger” for a confidence boost on the morning of your first day, but by now you’ve probably reached a comfort level that doesn’t elicit quite the same adrenaline rush. It’s good to be relaxed, but don’t be too chill, bro—your performance shouldn’t be waning, and neither should your liveliness. “Walk in everyday thinking, ‘how can I make the most of this opportunity?’” says Lauren Berger, the “Intern Queen” and founder of InternQueen.com, a site focused on connecting qualified candidates to internships and providing advice to applicants. Whether improving your demeanor means finding little ways to get energy beyond that billionth cup of coffee or improving your methods of dealing with frustrating workplace obstacles, maintaining a high level of enthusiasm and vigor is sure to get you noticed—as well as deter your own boredom and make those last few weeks all the more enjoyable. And remember that your boss isn’t the only person to impress: “To leave a lasting impression, remember that everyone in that office needs to think you are a reliable job candidate,” adds Berger. So be sure to stay positive in front of the whole office.
2. Attend networking events. If you haven’t already done so, now is an excellent time to whiten your teeth, firm your handshake, and start networking—both in and outside the office. “I’m an intern at MIAMI magazine, and we host a ton of events with successful people in attendance,” says Jaime Ritter, a rising senior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “I like to network with the guests as much as possible, and on a good night I might walk out with 10 business cards.” Networking may seem daunting at first, but your summer internship is a perfect chance to brush up on your skills and establish connections that are sure to pay off in the long run—even if those benefits seem distant right now. In Jaime’s words, “you never know when you might need those people for a job, or just to have lunch and pick their brain.”
So who exactly should you network with? Developing a relationship with your supervisor is an obvious move, but don’t shy away from any chance to talk to someone in your field. Even junior members of the company can provide valuable information; those fresh out of undergrad can share their recent success stories with you, not to mention give you the inside scoop on the goings on of the office. As Berger says, “interns should introduce themselves to as many people as possible.” Ask around about upcoming events where you can make more contacts, and be open to indirect connections as well: take advantage of your summer location by contacting your school or company’s alumni in the area. Even if you find a scarcity of alumni from your school in particular, there’s a good chance your college is part of a larger networking organization. The Selective Liberal Arts Consortium (SLAC), for example, hosts events for 14 small colleges, as do other collaborations between colleges of similar size and location. Don’t forget to take advantage of the web through general networking sites like LinkedIn or XING, as well as your company’s Facebook page to see what your colleagues are up to. Finally, make sure to keep track of the cards you collect and the people you meet: “[Interns] should keep an organized record of who they meet so they can send them a thank you note at the end of the internship!” adds Berger.
3. Ask for advice. Believe it or not, even Miranda Priestly of The Devil Wears Prada had to start somewhere before achieving a high-up position like editor-in-chief. Remember that your supervisor was once college-aged, too, and take advantage of her ability to give you excellent career advice—whether in a specific field or otherwise. Shaye Winer, a rising junior at the Fashion Institute of Technology, shares an anecdote from a previous internship experience: “Last semester, I really admired my editor, and I asked if we could sit down to chat about her life and how she got to where she was,” says Shaye. But don’t wait until the last minute—supervisors can have super busy schedules, and you don’t want to miss your chance to speak face-to-face. “I asked with about six weeks left and it took her two weeks to fit it in, since it wasn’t super important,” adds Shaye. Be sure to give your supervisor plenty of time to schedule you in—both to show initiative and to ensure that you won’t miss a valuable learning opportunity.