After months of scouring for internship opportunities, filling out applications, and interviewing, you finally landed that dream summer internship. Now it’s been two months of hard work and lots of learning, and you’re about to head back to campus for a new school year. How are you going to make the most of your experience this summer? Don’t let all your hard work go to waste – here’s what you need to do in the last days of your internship to leave a lasting impression, maintain career contacts, and carry what you’ve learned on into your future professional endeavors.
1. Get references
Bolster your LinkedIn profile with a recommendation from a former boss or co-worker, or have a go-to person to refer future recruiters to by locking down references and recommendations before you leave your internship.
“Before leaving an internship, obtain a letter of reference from your supervisor,” recommends Darlene Johnson, Director of External Relations at Hofstra University. “This can be an actual letter or a reference written on LinkedIn.”
Make sure you ask your potential recommender in person before sending them a request on LinkedIn, or just giving their contact information to a recruiter a few months down the line. Not only is this a courtesy to them, but it will also give them more time to craft a thoughtful recommendation on your behalf that best highlights your strengths.
It’s important not to procrastinate on this task because if you need a reference later at a later date, your supervisor may no longer be employed there or may not remember your specific roles and responsibilities.
2. Collect contact information for your supervisors and peers
“Don’t ghost your employers,” says Sammy Munsch, Assistant Director of Internships and Experiential Education at Temple University. “Keep communicating with your supervisors and peers even after you leave.”
Keeping in touch with the people you meet at your internship is crucial to maximizing your experience. This isn’t just limited to your boss – stay in contact with your fellow interns too! Get their email addresses and connect with them on LinkedIn to stay in touch.
“Send them updates on your job search progress, articles that you think might be of interest to them, and congratulations for work anniversaries or corporate accomplishments,” advises Johnson. “Nobody wants to think that they are only contacted by people who need something.”
Allow an authentic, professional relationship to grow by maintaining contact on matters other than your next career move.
Lauren Weetman, a sophomore at the University of Notre Dame who interned at Twentieth Century Fox last summer, recommends adding superiors on LinkedIn and meeting up in person with mentors.
“I try to send an update or checking in email every now and then to mentors,” says Lauren. “When I’m back in town, I will try to reach out and potentially get coffee with them to catch up in person.”
3. Ask for feedback
At the conclusion of your internship, it can be helpful to ask for exit interviews with your boss to find out what your strengths were, where you can improve, and gain advice for the future. According to Lauren, exit interviews with her bosses were one of the most important things she did before the end of her internship.
“They were able to give me vital feedback that I have been able to apply since,” she says.
Diana Mendez, Director of the Center for Career Development at Bloomfield College, also emphasizes the importance of end of year meetings with superiors.
“Near the end of an internship, interns should be scheduling a final check-in with their supervisor to go over their contributions, successes, areas of improvement (if any), and to ask for overall feedback about their performance,” she explains. “This is also a good time to ask the supervisor if there are any opportunities that they could be considered for or if the supervisor can serve as a reference for future internships/jobs.”
But don’t just limit yourself to your bosses – ask other colleagues for feedback, too.
“If I could change anything, I would have gotten more feedback informally from people who weren’t my direct supervisors,” says Lauren. “Internships are critical learning experiences, and I wish I had asked for more feedback.”
Asking for feedback can also help you process and articulate what exactly you did this summer, and how to translate your accomplishments on your resume.
“You might think, ‘I just sent emails all summer’, but what did those emails lead to?” says Munsch. “Asking for feedback from your boss can help you better express what your tasks contributed to.”
Additionally, you can learn a lot about yourself, including skills and weaknesses by talking to your superiors and get advice that can help you for years down the road.
4. Take time to reflect
It’s easy for a whirlwind summer to fly by and leave you wondering what you even learned and accomplished. While the experience is still fresh in your mind, reflect on your time with the company. Did you enjoy the work environment? Is this an industry you could see yourself working in in the future?
Internships can give you authentic work experience and a glimpse into daily life in a workplace setting.
“Pay attention to the culture,” advises Munsch. “What did you like about your projects? Did you prefer working with people, or alone?”
Whether you had a positive or negative experience overall, you can still get something out of your internship.
“Even if an internship experience was less than ideal for whatever reason or if it didn’t meet the expectations of the intern, students still should make a mental note of what didn’t work and what to avoid in future internships,” says Mendez.
Ask yourself what you liked and didn’t like about the company so you can better determine what you’re looking for in a career and future employer. For instance, maybe you realized you prefer a more laid back atmosphere, or would rather have more direct management instead of being allowed free reign.
5. Make a list of specific tasks you’ve accomplished
Again, summer goes by fast, and you don’t want to forget anything. After taking time to reflect on what you did or did not like about your internship and company, make a list of concrete projects you completed and specific skills you developed over the summer.
“I think it’s important to think critically about your experience over the summer,” Lauren explains. “I looked at my work product and thought about how I could have improved the process and final product, and thought about what I can do to improve on my work in future internships and jobs.”
Not only does this help you personally grow, but you can strengthen your resume by giving actual examples instead of just vague descriptions. It also gives you potential talking points for future job interviews.
6. Have a conversation with your boss about something other than yourself
Chances are, your boss has been in a position like yours at some point and figured out a way to succeed and rise to the position they are in now. Make sure to ask about their career path and how they got to the position they are in now.
“The most important part of internships is the people you meet,” Lauren says. “So much can be gained from listening to their life experiences and learning about their careers.”
Having these authentic conversations demonstrates your respect for your superiors and shows that you value their input.
7. Say Thank You
No doubt you had some help along the way at your internship, so don’t forget to express your gratitude. Thank your superiors for the opportunity, and colleagues for the experience and advice you may have received.
“Any person who helped the intern in any significant way should be thanked, either with a card, note or by asking them out for coffee/lunch as a gesture of gratitude,” says Mendez. “Interns should also send a final thank you e-mail to the team (including HR staff) providing their contact information and how to stay in touch.”
A small gesture of gratitude can go a long way, both in making people feel appreciated, and in solidifying your legacy and relationship with the company.
“The most important thing is to display appreciation and to leave a lasting good impression,” says Mendez. “People remember interns who were grateful and who made the best of the internship while they were at the organization.”
Mendez goes on to explain the small world that is the working world.
“Above all, interns should always show appreciation for the experience; you never know who your supervisor knows; it is a small world,” she explains. “Leaving a lasting good impression is paramount when exiting an internship (or any job) experience.”
Overall, some of the most important things to take away from your internship are connections with your supervisors and fellow interns and industry knowledge.
“The number one mistake that students make at the end of their internship is not staying in touch with their supervisor and co-workers,” says Johnson. “Some students don’t even remember the name of their supervisor! Without these important networking connections, students can miss fantastic opportunities for future positions.”
Soak up every bit of knowledge you can during your time, keep in touch with the people you meet, and your internship will continue to benefit you long after you leave the office. And most importantly, don’t forget to say thank you before you pack up your desk and head back to school this fall.