Five Steps To Maximize Your Summer Internship

Following these five simple steps will help you maximize your summer internship and secure a return offer.

Step 1: Set Goals Early

The first step to optimizing an internship is to set goals before the start date. I recommend you create a list containing the following four categories:

1.) Impact: The impact you will make on your company and how you plan on doing that.

2.) Skills: The skills you want to develop and how you will develop those skills.

3.) Understanding: The level of understanding you want to have of the company or industry and how you will get there.

4.) Relationships: The quality and quantity of relationships you want to build within your company and how you plan on going about that.

Once you establish your goals and create a plan of action, run the plan by a coworker or your boss and see how feasible they think it is and what they would suggest to make it better. Hopefully, this will help them craft your work so that it coincides with your goals. This will also let them know what they can expect from you, and how they can help you succeed.

Step 2: Underpromise & Overdeliver

If you want to stand out as an intern, you must go above and beyond whatever is asked of you. Whenever you are assigned a task, ask what else you can do. However, be careful not to overpromise.

For example, during my last summer internship, my boss asked me to accomplish a task within two days. I then responded ignorantly by saying that I could finish it in the next three hours. Although I was able to accomplish it (barely), I over-promised to the point where all I could do was deliver--giving my boss a very high expectation of myself. However, it would have been better if I would have agreed to his original deadline, and then internally set my goals to overdeliver and accomplish the task early.  

When you underpromise and overdeliver, you allow your superior to maintain their own expectations, and then leave an astounding result when you exceed them.

Step 3: Network, Network, Network

You should make a big effort to develop genuine relationships with everyone on your team. Not only will this increase your likelihood of securing a return offer, but it will also make your internship more enjoyable and allow you to leave a positive impact on those around you.

Additionally, as an intern and student, you have a free pass to reach out to anyone in your company for a chance to grab coffee and pick their brain--no one is off limits. After you’ve developed relationships with your boss and team, reach out to anyone you want to learn more about! In the worst case scenario, you don’t get a response…that’s not that bad.

Two Networking Tactics:

1.) Names: Privately write down everyone’s name and write a brief description to help you remember them. When speaking to them, use their name often--everyone loves hearing their name and it will make them want to remember yours.

2,) Follow-Up: If someone took you out to coffee and invested in you, don’t forget to follow-up with them and thank them for their time. Also, write down everything you talked about afterward--this will help you with step 5.

Step 4: Document Your Experiences ASAP

One of the most common mistakes students make is waiting until recruitment season to update their resumes and cover letters about their summer internship. As soon as you finish your internship, you should update your resume and write a summary of what you did in an application style manner so that it is ready to go when recruitment season comes around. The summary will be more in-depth, accurate, and easier to write the sooner you do it. After you’ve updated it, run it through a co-worker or boss to get their perspective on it.

Step 5: Hand-Write Thank-You Cards

I know it’s old school, but it is important. When you finish your internship, don’t just send a thank you email after people have invested countless hours and capital on you. I recommend you write a handwritten thank you card to everyone you are genuinely grateful for. When I finished my internship last summer, I hand-wrote 24 thank you cards to an array of people from the security lady at the front desk (who thought I got fired and offered to help me find a job) to the Vice President of Operations. Although it took a long time, every card was more than worth it.