You’re in the home stretch. You have two weeks left of your internship, and as you prepare to move back to school all you’ve got on your mind is that pesky morning class you signed up for twice a week and how in the world you are going to fit all your new clothes into your suitcase.
Wait a second. We said you’re in the home stretch, not the locker room. The game’s not over. Before you get too caught up in going back to school, let’s talk about something that comes first: ending your summer internship. What can you do in your last two weeks in the office to both leave a positive lasting impression on your boss and coworkers AND ensure that you milked your position for all it is worth?
HC’s got you covered. We’ve gathered a list of 8 things you NEED to do before your internship ends that will allow you make the most of the hard work you put in to your job over the last few months.
Ask for Feedback on Your Performance
Sure, you may talk to your boss every morning. But have you ever asked her for detailed, honest feedback on your work? Throughout your internship you may have completed your tasks, but you may not have had the chance to assess how well you completed them. Ask your boss — in an email, before meeting face-to-face — in what ways you met her expectations, and how you could have done better. Discussing this with her at least two weeks before the end of your internship will give you time to make changes should they be necessary. Internships are meant to be learning experiences, so take advantage of that.
Hearing from your boss on howshe perceives your accomplishments can also teach you how to present your strengths to future employers. “Their perspective on your on-the-job performance may be invaluable in helping you prepare for future interviews,” says Alan Gross, CEO of Gross Strategic Marketing, a marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida.
Set up Informational Interviews
Though your internship is short, you want to become as much a part of the company community as possible. One way to do this is to speak with your colleagues, who can offer you a wealth of knowledge on how to succeed in the field.
You can tap into your colleagues’ career knowledge by setting up short informational interviews, during which you can ask about their positions in the field and how they got there. These meetings can take place throughout the duration of your internship, but make sure to do them in the last two weeks if you haven’t already held them! The formality of the interviews is up to you — do you want to speak over coffee? Over lunch? Or would you rather meet in the office conference room? On interview day, be sure to bring a set of questions to ask, and don’t forget to take notes!
Whether you know it or not, your colleagues will be thrilled to help you out. “I can tell you that as someone who was once a volunteer and an intern, I know what it’s like and the work that is needed to climb the ladder! Thus, I am always happy to help an intern of mine in their own professional development, whether it be through explaining my job description or other tasks,” says Rebekkah Belferman, Communications Manager at Oakland Planning & Development Corporation in Pittsburgh, PA.
By conducting these interviews, you are presenting yourself to your colleagues as a prepared individual genuinely interested in the field, which, you guessed it — will make networking that much easier once you leave the office. “Showing interest in what people at the company do will keep you on their radar and make you stand out among other interns,” Her Campus Life editor Amanda First says. But remember: getting to know your coworkers isn’t just about networking. Talking to people in the industry who were in your position just a few years ago can provide you with invaluable career advice.
Share Your Career Plans With Your Colleagues
Talking to colleagues about your plans is just as important as listening to theirs. According to Alison Green, a career expert on management, talking to your internship colleagues about your current work and your future plans is a strategic career move. In an article for U.S. News and World Report she writes, “These people might be quite helpful to you in the future — telling you about job leads, recommending you for a job, helping you figure out career choices, and so forth. But a lot of people won't offer this kind of help if you don't explicitly ask for it, although they'll be happy to help if you ask them to.”
During the final days of your internship, if you haven’t already in your informational interviews or in passing, mention your career plans to your colleagues. Are you waiting by the copy machine with a project manager? Tell him about your dream of running a software team at a start-up in San Francisco. In the elevator with the company’s community organizer? Tell her you’re a year away from earning your degree in social services. Don’t be afraid to talk about your plans for the future! Someone you work with may have advice or even the connections to help you achieve your goals.
Ask About Continued Work
Interested in continuing work for your employer after your internship ends? Your employer may be interested, too, but it’s not her job to ask to keep you on — it’s yours. Speak up and express your desire to continue working for the company, whether it’s to finish a project you’ve already started or to spearhead a project of your own, such as an event idea or taking on freelance writing for the company website.
Approach your boss within your last week and ask if she has time to meet with you. Initiate your meeting by explaining all you have learned about the company through the projects you completed. Tell your boss that through these experiences, you have gained valuable insight into the company culture, and that you feel you are able to manage company tasks on your own. State that you are interested in continuing working for the company, if your boss is inclined to the idea. Be sure to provide examples of projects you would be willing (and able!) to tackle solo.
Should you ask to be paid? The decision is up to you. According to Vault.com, a career website, “if you’re comfortable working for free, do that, but don’t be afraid to toss out a rate either. Your experience with the company is valuable — treat it that way!” You’d be surprised — asking for pay is not an end-all to your work with your internship employer. Meghan Frick, a Her Campus contributing writer from Appalachian State University, said that all it took to earn a paid position with a company she interned at was simply to ask. “It was intimidating to start this conversation with my internship supervisor, but I'm glad I did. I was able to continue freelancing and start getting paid for the newspaper owned by the publishing company I interned at. It never hurts to ask!” she says.
The bottom line: if you want to keep working for your employer, just ask.
Ask for a Recommendation
Whether or not you’re able to continue employment with the company, now is the time to ask for letters of recommendation. Allow your employer at least two weeks to write the recommendation; asking for a complete letter in a short amount of time makes you appear less-than-courteous, and not only is that the wrong lasting impression to make, you also don’t want that image reflected in your recommendation.
Asking for a recommendation in the last few weeks of your internship encourages your boss to reflect on the positive impacts you made during your time with her. How’s that for a reminder of the superstar intern you are? Now, while your work and good qualities are fresh in her mind, is the time to ask for a letter. “If you’ve done a great job, you won’t find a more receptive moment to ask for this professional favor,” Gross explains.
Gather Contact Information
While Facebook might be best left to your college BFFs, exchanging personal email addresses and adding your colleagues on LinkedIn during the last few days of your internship allows you to easily keep in contact with those who made an impact on you over the past few months. Staying in touch with colleagues is great for your career development, as it allows you to build a professional network.
Many corporations give former interns first preference, or even exclusive access, to open positions at their company. Remaining in contact with your boss and colleagues makes you memorable to the company, a trait that can help you score a job later on. “Whirl hires exclusively from our intern base, and we always hire those who keep in touch with us,” says Victoria Bradley, Executive Editor of Whirl Magazine.
Staying in contact with colleagues may help you not only score a job at their company, but also a job at other companies. Connect with your employers and colleagues (this includes fellow interns!) every now and then to update them on your career goals, commend them for something the company has done or catch them up on what you’ve been doing since you left your internship.If you form a lasting bond with your colleagues by the end of your internship, they will more likely help you when you begin your job search. “When it came time to start looking for a job, everyone I met was more than willing to help me out. I had several interviews at different PR agencies because someone who I met the summer before gave me a positive recommendation to a friend at another agency,” Natalie Labriola, Marketing Manager at CardRunners, says.
Handwrite Thank You Notes to Everyone You Worked With
If we haven’t tooted the hand-written thank you note’s horn enough, let me just say: it is a tried-and-true way to make yourself stand out among fellow interns — and to show your true appreciation. Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Resources at CareerBuilder.com, explains, “writing a thank-you letter after an interview doesn’t just showcase a candidate’s manners — it can also make or break their chances of landing a job.” And writing one at the end of an internship is no different. This little 4” x 4” piece of cardboard is your space to show that you appreciated the opportunities your employer gave you throughout your internship (because we know that, regardless of the coffee runs, document copies and other grunt work you had to do, you probably got to work on some pretty cool projects).
To add a personal touch to your thank you notes, use either blank cards or professional-looking stationary: something that gives you space to write and is plain enough (but not too plain!) to make your words stand out. After all, we want your bosses to remember what yousaid in the note, not what the cartoon monkey posing on the front is exclaiming. Your notes should be detail-specific, discussing the skills you gained and moments you enjoyed while working with your employer. To make yourself even more memorable, consider giving a thank you note not only to your boss, but to colleagues you worked under as well. When done well, writing thank you notes can be a reflective experience. “It forced me to sit down and really think about why I appreciated the experience of the internship,” says Madeleine Frank, Her Campus Harvard’s campus correspondent.
When should you hand over your hand-written treasures? On the final day at your internship. This way, your note (a manifestation of your polished thoughts) leaves your final impression.
As you set in on the home stretch, remember this: the final impression you leave during your internship will become your lasting one. Make sure to take the time to connect with your colleagues in your final days, and thank each person you worked under. Your efforts over the last couple weeks could benefit you for years.
Rebekkah Belferman, Communications Manager, Oakland Planning & Development Corporation
Victoria Bradley, Executive Editor, Whirl Magazine
Jenna Deutsch, Rochester Institute of Technology Campus Correspondent
Madeleine Frank, Harvard Campus Correspondent
Meghan Frick, Her Campus Contributing Writer
Alan M. Gross, CEO of Gross Strategic Marketing
Natalie Labriola, Marketing Manager at CardRunners, former HC Illinois Campus Correspondent