Summer internships are excellent opportunities for college students to acquire valuable skills, collaborate with experienced professionals and expand their network. With summer winding down and students returning to campus, it is an ideal time for interns to take a few extra steps to capitalize on their work experience. Here are three impactful things you should do before you leave work and head back to school.
[See: The Top 10 Intern Mistakes.]
First, prepare for a review. While many formal intern programs offer a review process, many small-to-midsized companies don't always plan on an end-of-summer review for their interns. Just as you get grades after each test and for each course in school, a review at the end of an internship is a key learning tool. If you work for a company that offers a review, ask if there is a standard format of the review and what things you should be ready to discuss. You can also ask peers and colleagues for any advice on what to prepare. If you work for an employer that doesn't offer a standard review, request one.
In general, reviews should cover your performance (both technical and soft skills), opportunities for growth and allow time for additional questions and answers. It can be helpful to pull your original job description and assess your performance as well as document any key projects or initiatives of which you took part. Be sure to note any areas you would like to learn more about, so that you can ask for suggestions on how to continue your growth. If you have performed well, you can ask about future roles with the company. If you sense your performance was lacking but you would like to leave on good terms, think through what you have learned from your challenges and what you can do to correct them in the future. While it may not land you a job at that company next summer, it may be the reason your manager is willing to recommend you for something else in the future.
Next, determine who can be a business reference for you (and what they will say about you). This is why a review is helpful -- you know exactly where you stand. If you are confident in your performance, you should ask at least two managers if they would be willing to be a reference for you and what their preferred method of contact is for future requests. If you are lucky enough to have multiple choices for references, look for people with good tenure and the highest-level title who can still speak personally about you.
If you are unsure of your performance, this is a little trickier. You should still ask a couple of managers or more senior colleagues if they can be a reference. You may also want to ask them what they would recommend you continue to work on for future career success. A potential reference who gives you a long list of ways to improve is probably not someone who will sing your praises on a reference call. A manager who gladly says they will help you and gives you only one or two pointers might be a safer bet. If someone goes into an explanation regarding the company's policy prohibiting references or how difficult it is to get in touch with them, that is a clear sign that this person is not going to be a good reference for you. It may sound obvious, but do not give out the name of a reference unless you know that they will say good-to-great things about you. It does not pay to gamble with your choice of references.
Finally, update your resume and LinkedIn now. Before you leave work is the best time, because your responsibilities and impact are more fresh in your mind. Additionally, you can ask current work connections if they would be willing to give you feedback on your depiction of your internship before you add it to your resume and LinkedIn profile. Often, interns will just list their job description as the update. It is highly preferable to prioritize the tasks that are most professionally relevant and accomplishments that are most valuable. Also, selecting concise but action-oriented wording can really improve the messaging. Asking your work colleagues to edit this update is a high-impact way to remind them of your accomplishments and to ensure you have created a compelling description.
Hopefully, your summer internship was a rewarding and educational experience. To fully leverage the power of an internship, take time for a review, set up your references and make updates to your resume and LinkedIn profile while everything is still in the front of your mind. With these three steps, you will be ready to go for fall career fairs and subsequent interviews on campus without the last-minute scramble to be prepared.
Robin Reshwan is the founder of Collegial Services, a consulting/staffing firm that connects college students, recent graduates and the organizations that hire them and a certified Women's Business Enterprise (WBE). She has interviewed, placed and hired thousands of people across a broad spectrum of companies and industries. Her career tips and advice are used by universities, national clubs/associations and businesses. A Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Robin has been honored as a Professional Business Woman of the Year by the American Business Women's Association. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and as a Regents Scholar from University of California, Davis.
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