A summer internship is an opportunity to test drive a career without making any serious commitments. It’s your chance to see what it would
really be like to work in a particular industry, and whether you’re a great fit.
And, perhaps most importantly, a good internship provides you with experiences, lessons, and tools you’ll need to get a full-time gig in the future.
Here are a few examples of things you can take away from an internship that may help you land a job down the road:
1. New/improved skills
One of the most important things you can take away from an internship is your new found knowledge, which includes knowing how to fulfil tasks relevant to your desired career path. Not only that, but you should have also spent time sharpening and honing the skills you already possessed.
“I always tell students to begin with the end in mind,” says Ashley Strausser, the associate director and internship coordinator at the Center for Career and Professional Development at
Otterbein University. “
Having a sense of the skills and experiences you want to gain from an internship at the start allows you to be intentional in working towards your goals.”
2. A more complete (and impressive) résumé
It’s pretty obvious, but one of the best things about completing an internship is being able to add it to your résumé.
Don’t just include the job title, company name, and all the the responsibilities you had — also highlight your contributions to the company and how you added value.
That’s what hiring managers in the future will care about most. They don’t really pay attention to the fancy company name or the fact that you “completed 10 big projects.” They want to know how you managed to get those assignments done, the impact your work had on the company, any problems you solved, and your impact on the bottom line.
If you did a superb job and made a favourable impression on your manager and colleagues, you’ll have no trouble coming up with references for future jobs you apply to. Just be sure to politely ask your boss or any coworkers who you made a great impression on if they’d be willing to recommend you for a job down the road. And then once that time comes, reach out to them again to get their permission.
You wouldn’t want to assume they’re still willing to be your reference. Plus, it’s beneficial to everyone to give your former manager or colleague a heads up that a new potential employer will be calling, as to give them time to think about all the great things they want to say about you.
Also: Make an effort to maintain a relationship with each of these people. Don’t just use them as references. Make them part of your network, and even consider asking one to be your mentor.
4. New connections
In addition to those people who you hope will act as references in the future, you should walk away from an internship with a handful of new connections: senior employees, clients, fellow interns, etc.
These people can provide guidance and advice, help you in future job searches, and may even become friends. But it’s up to you to stay in touch with these connections, keep them in the loop on where you are in your career, and offer to help them whenever you can.
Upon finishing your internship, be sure to formally thank each of these people for their help and support.
To ensure you’ll actually have people to thank and stay in touch with, you’ll need to make an effort during the course of your internship to build relationships with people around the office. Strausser suggests joining the company’s summer softball team, or inviting colleagues to lunch or coffee.
“Take the time to get to know as many people in the office as possible,” says Kim Heitzenrater, the director of Career and Leadership Development at Sewanee: The University of the South.
“Ask for their knowledge and advice; learn everything that they can teach you. Then, say thanks and keep in touch.”
5. A greater sense of professionalism
Working in an office environment (or any kind of professional setting) can be difficult to get used to — and the best (perhaps only) way to learn how to navigate the working world is through real life, hands-on experience. After your internship, you should have a better idea of the appropriate way to behave as a professional and a sense of how to play the game of office politics.
“For many students, an internship is their first exposure to a professional work setting,” says Strausser. “Often students comment about how much they appreciated the opportunity observe workplace culture and see how professionals interact with one another and conduct themselves.”
6. More confidence in your career direction
“An internship is an opportunity to test out a career field of interest,” Strausser says. By the end of it, you should have a clearer idea of whether or not you really do want to enter that field or pursue that occupation.
Realising that it’s actually not the right job for you isn’t as terrible as it seems. Think about it: It’s better to learn that you’d be unhappy sooner rather than later. Plus, if you come to this conclusion, you can spend the next few months exploring other areas of interest and jobs that might be a good fit, then you can begin working on securing an internship in that industry.
But you want to be 100% certain. “If this happens, take the opportunity to reflect on the experience and ask yourself: ‘Why didn’t I enjoy this internship?’ ‘Was there something that I could have changed or done differently?’ Use that information as you assess your post-graduation plans,” advises Strausser.
7. Completed projects/presentations/etc.
Besides new knowledge and better business etiquette, you should be able to walk away with tangible evidence of what you’ve accomplished. For example: presentations you gave, articles you wrote, campaigns you worked on, or designs you created.
Whenever possible, try to have some kind of physical or digital place to showcase your work to future potential employers. A portfolio or website, for instance, are ideal platforms.
The best way to learn from your performance is to ask for feedback from those with whom you worked. Remember not to get defensive. If you actually listen to the constructive criticism and take it to heart, you’ll be an even better employee in the future. And if you know what you’re doing well, you can use those attributes to sell yourself as a strong candidate to employers later on.
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