We’ve all heard it over and over again—making connections that will be helpful down the road is one of the most important parts of having an internship. How to actually establish and maintain these connections, though? Kind of a different story. If you’re interning this summer, it can be helpful to come up with a game plan ahead of time so you know how to form relationships with your boss and coworkers before you head into your first day at the office. Luckily, we talked to experts and collegiettes who have been there, done that, to get the scoop on being your office’s most memorable intern this summer!
1. Get friendly, but keep it professional
One of the best ways to connect with both your internship boss and other interns is easier than you think—just be your friendly, outgoing self! While you should always make sure to maintain professional relationships first, Liat Tzoubari, who has managed interns for Apartable, an apartment search website, says that being social allows interns to connect with the rest of the office on a more personal level.
“Interns often come into a workplace feeling intimidated, and there is no reason for them to feel that way,” Tzoubari says. “After all, we chose YOU! Be confident and mingle with your coworkers; it's the best way to ensure they hire you if/when interested. Grab coffee with your boss, go for lunch with your coworkers, or even just ask someone you work with if they want to go for a quick five-minute walk to get some fresh air.”
Lynn Chalati, a collegiette at the University of Ottawa and an intern at a law firm, says getting to know her manager well has allowed her make a connection beyond just a professional one.
“We make a point of getting together once a day to chit-chat and talk about the day’s work,” Lynn says. “She’s now a reference on my resume and one of my Instagram followers! It's nice to be friends and not just colleagues while still keeping it professional.”
Need some ideas for building personal relationships? Start small. When appropriate of course, stop by the desks of coworkers and people in your department to chat. Once you’ve gotten to know specific people around your office better, inviting them to coffee is also a great idea! Don’t limit it to your department, either—branch out and get to know others within the company to set yourself apart from a sea of interns!
While it’s important to remember the line between making friends and getting too personal, getting coffee with coworkers or lunch with your boss will ensure that you’re not just lost in the shuffle!
2. It’s all in the attitude
Ultimately, it all boils down to having a good attitude and being an intern that your bosses will want to connect with now and later down the road. Carlota Zimmerman, a career coach and writer for The Huffington Post, says your attitude makes all the difference.
“The best and most natural way to develop professional relationships during your internship is to be a professional worth knowing,” Zimmerman says. “That means, coming in early with a great attitude, NOT Facebooking at work—unless maintaining your company’s Facebook and social media presence is part of your responsibilities—accepting more work with good graces, and doing whatever is necessary, whatever you can do, to forward your company’s goals.”
When you go above and beyond your basic intern duties and come into the office with a positive attitude, people will notice—and will be more likely to want to get to know you and keep in touch once your internship is over. Something as small as coming in early, staying late or asking your boss what else needs to be done before you leave for the day will set you apart as an intern your company will want to hire down the road!
3. Ask for advice
Learn about your industry
Remember the saying, “There’s never a bad question?” This especially applies to your internship! It’s always a good idea to ask as many questions as you can about your industry in order to show that you are interested in learning and growing through your internship. Jeff Kear, who manages interns for his business Planning Pod, says asking questions is the best way to show interest in your internship.
“For example, interns should set up internal Q&A meetings with employees inside the organization to learn more about the roles and responsibilities of those people,” Kear suggests. “These things demonstrate the intern's interest in learning and taking on responsibilities, and they also give them extended access to people who can help them advance their career when they graduate.”
Learn about your boss’s career path
Asking your boss questions about her career path is also a great way to not only learn about how to make it yourself, but to also develop a relationship with her. Natalie Elliot, a freshman at California Lutheran University and a former Her Campus intern, says setting up a meeting to ask her boss questions about her boss’s career has allowed her to stand out among her peers.
“After my first week, I emailed my boss and told her how much I'm loving my internship so far and asked if she would have time to meet so I could ask her about starting her own business,” Natalie says. “She loved that I wanted to hear what she had to say!”
When you ask questions, not only does it show you’re super interested in your boss’s career path and the company you’re interning for, but it creates opportunities for conversation on a more personal level and shows you’re excited to learn. Bottom line: if you have a question, don’t be afraid to speak up!
4. Social media can be your best friend
Okay, so you shouldn’t be checking Facebook at work. But using social media to keep in touch, especially post-internship, is a definite do! Saniya Kahn, who just graduated from Molloy College, says that when it comes to connecting with other interns, using social media is a must.
“Several interns connected on LinkedIn or Facebook and exchanged numbers and emails to keep in touch throughout the year,” Saniya says. “We all came from different backgrounds, schools, and parts of the country, but having those internship memories together helped us stay in touch long after.”
Part of making connections at your summer internship is ensuring that they’ll last beyond the three months you’ve spent as an intern! Especially when it comes to your fellow interns, don’t be afraid to start pressing that “follow” button on Twitter or to connect with them on LinkedIn—these are the people who you’ll be working with (or for!) in the future, so maintaining a relationship with them is a must!
A word of caution: when it comes to your superiors and social media, it may be a good idea to be choosy about which (if any!) platforms you use to connect with them. While LinkedIn and Twitter are usually safe bets, be careful when it comes to accounts you may not keep as professional, like Facebook. (After all, no one wants to be remembered by a former boss as the intern whose weekend debauchery showed up constantly in her news feed!)
5. Keep in touch
Once you’ve made the connection, actually staying connected with your former boss in a non-awkward way can be slightly trickier territory. Tzoubari says that a quick note to check in and give updates about your own career can make a big impact.
“Even a simple email over the holidays saying, ‘How are you? How is everyone at the office? Happy holidays to you and your family!’ with a quick update about how you are doing goes a long way,” Tzoubari says.
Saniya agrees that periodic notes and email updates have been the easiest way for her to keep in touch after her internship was over.
“Once the internship ended, I kept in touch by giving periodic updates about things like school and where I was traveling to next through email,” she says. “I also made sure to send an email wishing the people in my department that I had established those initial relationships a happy holiday season and well wishes for a happy new year.”
There’s no need to sweat when trying to connect post-internship—it’s all about the little things! Whether you send a holiday note or ask your boss to meet up for coffee, it will remind your boss and former coworkers of what great work you did as an intern and will set you up to be remembered for potential jobs down the road!
Ultimately, looking for those small opportunities to bond and connect with your boss and coworkers can have a huge impact on the connections you make during and after your internship—make them count!