We are now in July, peak internship season. If you are interning this summer, now is a great time to review your performance and success thus far. If you approach this process the right way, hopefully you can parlay this internship opportunity into an offer of full-time employment after college graduation.
To position yourself as a strong, long-term employee and colleague, you should focus on these four objectives:
Do Good Work
First and foremost, deliver exceptional quality work. Complete projects thoroughly, accurately, and in a timely manner. Ask questions about the scope and depth of your deliverables. If you have creative suggestions to improve your output, it is best to check in with your manager to be sure there is time and interest in you doing that additional work. After work each day, think about the skills you applied and additional challenges you are seeking; ask for more work if you have completed your assignments and have time on your hands. If you find yourself with unavoidable downtime, keep a positive attitude and use this additional bandwidth to master aspects of software that you don’t get to explore day to day. Ask if you can shadow someone else to observe and learn about other roles in the company. Most importantly, ask for constructive feedback along the way; don’t wait until the end of summer to get a formal review.
Connect with the Team to Build Your Network
It can be easy for an intern to focus solely on their manager’s interests. While your manager gives the assignments and guides your work, it is important to connect with other colleagues and peers, especially if there are other interns and/or new grads. Future employees are evaluated based on their fit within the larger team and culture. Make yourself known to others in the company by greeting people in the morning and saying goodnight as you leave. Go to lunch with a variety of colleagues throughout the summer, using that time to meet individuals in other departments and learn about the company and their specific functions. Have fun and get to know people. Get involved if the company participates in volunteer work, or hosts a softball game or other informal team activity. If there aren’t any activities planned, suggest something; it doesn’t have to be elaborate. Attending a fitness class or going to a new-release movie are easy after-hours events with little upfront commitment.
Act Like an Owner
While you are at the company, embrace the experience and demonstrate a “WE” attitude – speak of the work and the company as if it is your family and you are fully invested in its success. You may only be expected to work for a short period of time, but behave as if you are in it for the long-term. Pay attention to what is happening in the news and the firm’s market or industry. Your team should trust and rely on you. If you are fully engaged in what is happening, you will be more likely to be given meaningful work projects. Simple ways of doing this are by arriving early and staying late to ensure you are helping the team finish time-sensitive tasks. Ask questions about the business, the projects underway and any changes they are working on implementing. Change can be hard to implement; if your assistance and fresh perspective can help realize an important change, you will be remembered for your effort when colleagues are making a future hiring decision.
Pave the Way for Others
Write a job description of your internship, or suggest you update one that may exist. Note daily and longer-term responsibilities. Add a summary of accomplishments; identify objectives that were met, what outstanding projects are left to complete, what you learned and what you feel can be improved upon. Not only will this allow projects to be more easily continued, and make it easier for successors to pick up the work – this will also be a tangible memory of your final and lasting impression at the internship, helping set you up for potential future opportunities at the company. Additionally, colleagues who move onto other opportunities will remember you and may consider reaching out to you regarding positions that may be appropriate in the future.
Toward the end of the summer, actively express your interest in a full-time role with the company; don’t assume that they know. You may be asked to complete a round of interviews; use your detailed job description to summarize your deliverables, and share what you learned from your colleagues to showcase your commitment to your team. Even if you realize during your internship that you are not a fit for the company, remember that these colleagues are now part of your active network. You might work with them in the future and they might serve as references for you (or you for them), so try to connect with them on LinkedIn. Make the most of this experience and enjoy it; you will reap the benefits of an internship for years to come as it marks the beginning of your professional journey.