There’s no way around it: Employers want to hire candidates who bring with them related, substantive experience.
A summer internship is a three-month job interview. It is as much an opportunity for the company to evaluate college-level talent, as it is for you to evaluate potential employers and career tracks.
If you’ve landed a rich summer experience – an internship, a volunteer/service experience, or an old-fashioned summer job – what are the best practices to turn it into a full-time career option upon graduation? High Point University’s Career and Professional Development office shares these tips on how to make the most out of your experience:
1. Ask a lot of questions
Whether the questions are about the company, industry, specific skills or the education/training needed to enter the field – they are all necessary questions to better help you pursue the right career path.
But even when asking lots of questions, take the initiative to find the answers on your own. No question is too small or dumb to ask, but don’t expect to be spoon-fed every answer. Don’t ask before you have attempted to find out on your own first, especially if the answer is clearly stated on the company website (for example, in what cities does our company have locations?).
2. Jump in
Once on the job, pursue every opportunity to get involved in day-to-day tasks. Earn trust by seizing the small stuff (like making copies when necessary), and always be thinking of ways to remain innovative and add a fresh, young perspective.
The best student workers are bright, naturally curious and quickly able to build on the skills they learn on the job. Ultimately, this kind of student will deliver real value for the company – they are exactly the type of entry-level people companies want to hire.
3. Build relationships with colleagues
Take a real interest in learning about the people who already work at the company. Ask questions and listen more than you talk.
Remember that every person you meet while working this summer can potentially be added to your professional network. Keep track of contact information for people you meet along the way – coworkers, supervisors, clients/customers and others.
4. Communicate your expectations
Tell your supervisor that you want to have a positive experience, make meaningful contributions, learn new skills and gain experience that will help develop your career. Clear communication about what you expect and need and what the employer expects and needs is key.
Sometimes summer experiences don’t work out – but there is still value to be gained and lessons to be learned. It’s up to you to ask the hard questions about what went wrong in order to maximize the value in the experience.
5. Keep work separate from socializing
Summer is an especially easy time of year to blur the lines since there are pool parties and backyard cookouts almost every weekend. As a college student, you should not make a habit of accepting these kinds of social invitations or going out for drinks or dinner with coworkers. There will be times when it is “safe” and in your best interest as you seek to grow professionally. However, if there is even a hint of doubt about joining a social situation, you would do well to decline and instead go work out at the gym.
6. Follow up after the summer
A timely thank-you note to your immediate supervisor is critical – maybe even take a batch of homemade cookies on your last day as a thank-you gesture. Be sure to include what you learned, your contact information, and express your gratitude for the summer opportunity.
Also, reach out to the professionals and colleagues you met during your summer experience. Following up with all of these people with a classy, well written thank-you note will go a long way.
- Maximize the chances that your experience will lead to a full-time opportunity with the employer where you worked this summer, or through a connection made over the summer.
- Learn how to best “showcase” this summer’s experience on your resume.