After weeks or even months of combing through Handshake and Indeed, you’ve finally secured the perfect summer internship. Great. Now what?
Filling your wardrobe with chic business-casual clothes is nice, but do you really know how to get the most out of your summer internship? PRISM interviewed Cassie Spencer, the academic internship program coordinator for Binghamton University’s Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development, for tips on how students can maximize their success.
According to Spencer, you should begin your internship with clear goals in mind. Identify what skills you want to learn, and what experiences you want to have. Having these written down somewhere can give you the chance to check in throughout the summer and see how your progress is going.
“Reflecting on your internship experience is an invaluable aspect of the opportunity,” Spencer wrote in an email. “Without consistently reflecting on your work, it’s hard to be aware of all that you’re learning and the skills you’re engaging in the internship.”
Sharing those goals with your supervisor can also be a great way to begin building your relationship, which is another key to internship success. Students should not be afraid to communicate with their superiors. In fact, Spencer said you should feel comfortable asking for feedback on your performance. Asking questions not only ensures that you’re doing everything correctly, but also shows that you care about the quality of the work you’re doing.
Though speaking up is an invaluable asset, Spencer recommended feeling out the atmosphere of your workplace and knowing when it’s appropriate to just step back and listen. Every workplace has a different culture, so do your best to adapt to your surroundings.
“Pay attention to the cues around you — what kinds of clothes are others wearing, do people bring laptops to meetings, is casual small-talk common,” Spencer wrote. “Being aware of these things will make your internship more comfortable, and make you have better experiences with your co-workers.”
Spencer also said you should maintain pleasant bonds with your co-workers. Networking is integral to career success, and you never know when those relationships will come in handy. She recommended using your downtime to connect with people in the workplace. You can even try to participate in other projects. Just make sure to keep those connections going after your internship is over — add them on LinkedIn, and check in when you can.
Students don’t typically think about updating their resumes while the internship is going on, but Spencer said that this is really beneficial.
“After completing an internship, it’s not always easy to recall the day-to-day experiences and responsibilities that you had,” Spencer wrote. “Updating your resume and Linkedin descriptions throughout the summer will help you in your future internship and job application endeavors.”
You want to do your best work, but don’t forget all the other pieces that fit into the perfect internship puzzle. Spencer said to continually reflect on the work you’re doing, build those important bonds and keep your job experience documents up-to-date. Above all, keep those goals that you crafted for yourself in mind, both during the internship and after.