Making the Most of Your Summer Internship: A 4-Step Action Plan

Making the Most of Your Summer Internship: A 4-Step Action Plan

So, you’ve networked like a boss, blown everyone’s socks off in the interview, and landed the summer internship of your dreams. Everything should take care of itself now, right? Well…

If all you want is to be able to say, “I once had a summer internship at an amazing company/organization,” then you are basically all set. But, if you want to leave your summer internship with new knowledge and skills, experiences that will demonstrate your readiness for more advanced opportunities, and maybe even a permanent job with your dream employer, you will need to stay on your toes.

While most internships today do not come with a pay check, you need to treat this like a job. Get the most from your summer internship experience by following these four steps.

Step 1: Prepare.

If you aced your interviews, you probably did enough research to be able to portray yourself as a great fit for the company. Now that you have been invited to join their ranks, dig deeper to understand how the company works and how your skills may serve their mission during your summer internship.

  • Read everything the company sends to you: Yes, read ALL of it and show your attentiveness by following instructions. It seems like common sense, but skimming is a hard habit to break for many of us and can make you look unprepared if you miss anything important. Assume it is all important.
  • Learn as much as possible about your new work environment: Who are the leaders of the organization and what are their professional backgrounds? Who would be your colleagues? If you passed the CEO or Director in the hall, would you be able to greet them by name and hold a conversation about their business? Research recent projects or developments that the company is invested in. Coming to your summer internship well-informed will allow you to take advantage of opportunities when they arise or, better yet, to create opportunities by matching the company’s needs to your skill sets.

Some company websites are well designed, but often you need to put on your detective hat to find out anything useful. A combination of Google, Glassdoor, Linkedin and Facebook will yield a lot of helpful information about the company and your future colleagues.

Step 2: Set Expectations and Goals.

Even if you have received some general program outlines, be sure to meet with your direct supervisor early on in your summer internship to come up with specific goals and expectations for your experience. What do you hope to gain from your summer internship? What do you want to learn about or know how to do by the end? What skills will you provide the company? Speaking directly about these questions with your supervisor will let them know that you are serious about this opportunity and that you want to do more than just stuff envelopes.

  • Propose a project: This is a great opportunity to show off your preparation by proposing an assignment that connects to the work of your organization. It also shows that you take initiative and want to accomplish something during your summer internship.
  • Choose goals that you can actually achieve: Make sure to choose action items and goals that you can finish given the time, resources, and abilities you will have. And be honest with yourself! The worst thing you can do is over-promise and not deliver.
  • Don’t settle for the bare minimum: Expectations are a starting point, not a limitation. If you see a way that you can provide support that isn’t required, don’t hold back. Be the person who goes above and beyond.

Do not monopolize this conversation: After sharing the unique talents you’d like to offer, be sure to ask how you can use them to be of service to the organization. Employers will most likely involve you in more projects if you show that you’re interested and want to help during your summer internship.

Step 3: Be Professional and Friendly.

What it comes down to is this: how would you want your colleagues and supervisors to describe you and the work you accomplished during your summer internship? Are you prompt? Are you dependable? Are you a team player? Make sure to demonstrate your professionalism in every task, whether it’s getting coffee, replying to e-mails, or spearheading a new project. It is equally important to make others around you feel considered, respected and prioritized. That is accomplished by both behavior and communication.

  • Observe the way company employees interact: Do they use titles or first names when addressing themselves or others? Do they begin their correspondence with formal or informal greetings? How quickly do they respond to messages? Do your best to mirror their behavior. It will help you fit in and demonstrate that you engage with others in ways that make them feel comfortable and respected.
  • Follow traditional professionalism: Always start with more traditional professionalism until you learn your company’s style – better to be safe than sorry. Arrive for work on the first day in appropriate business clothes, use titles when addressing people until invited to do otherwise, be as prompt as possible when responding to communication… you get the idea.
  • Say yes to social gatherings: As much as you can, say yes to the after-work/out-of-the-office gatherings. No one will admit it upfront, but socializing with co-workers greatly affects how you and your work are perceived. If you are a hardcore introvert and find such gatherings a bit painful, then seek other opportunities to show an interest in your co-workers beyond the business of the company.

Step 4: Stay in Touch!

Make it your goal to leave your summer internship with social capital: mentors, recommenders and new friends to widen your network. When we network or schmooze, we often talk to people just long enough to find out what they can do for us, recite our resume, then move on. But the most valuable network will be one that you build and maintain over time, by showing ongoing care for those that you want to invest in your future.

Adding people on social media is a nice step, but make sure you actively reach out and occasionally interact with them directly via chat, e-mail, phone or in-person meet-ups. Stay in touch even when you don’t need something, so that when you do help, they will be happy to oblige.  Staying at the front of their minds also means that they may think to bring an opportunity to you proactively.

 

Your summer internship will be what you make it. Most interns waste away their summer opportunities by counting down the hours in the day. Take advantage of the connections that you could have and the real life knowledge that you could gain. Follow this 4-step plan to make sure that your summer internship is worth all the effort you put in to get hired in the first place!

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