There is perhaps no better feeling than that of your first day at your summer internship. You were probably wearing a nice shirt, or some new shoes, or a brand new smile that is synonymous to the excitement you were feeling since it is the first time you got to call a place your office. It takes a while to get used to your new environment, your colleagues, your daily tasks and it is inevitable to ask yourself questions like: “How long should I be taking for lunch? Are there casual fridays? Can I wear my favorite jeans to work?“
But in a matter of weeks you’ll feel like you’ve taken grasp of your responsibilities and you’ll soon find yourself on a countdown until it is all over. It’s bittersweet, I know, but do you really want to go back to classes? Probably not. Here are a few tips on what to do during the last few days of your internship.
1. Put your skills to work: Learn. Grow. Inspire.
There is only so much you can learn during two or three months, but the skills you gain are yours to keep forever. During my first co-op (which is like an internship only that it is a full-time six months employment contract that is part of my degree) at Adobe Systems in San Francisco, I was assigned the role of Digital Marketing Specialist. I optimized the conversion rate of online campaigns for Fortune 500 companies on platforms like Google, Yahoo, Bing, Twitter or Facebook. I realized that these weren’t skills I learned in Intro to Marketing, in fact, these were things I’d never heard before. I focused on learning as much as I could, and even pioneered the development of Twitter Ads on the Adobe platform. I thought that once my co-op came to an end, it was highly unlikely that I would be doing this in the future. I was wrong. When I returned to campus I found some of my friends building projects of their own like start-up companies, personal brands, or even trying to become an EDM DJ. I thought it was a great idea to put forward my skills I’ve learnt at Adobe and help them expand their brands online. It was fascinating and truly rewarding so when you return to campus, consider putting to work the unique skills you’ve gained in your internship or co-op.
2. Build relationships and keep in touch
Chances are you’re going to be working on a team, perhaps on a specific account. You’re going to be spending more than ten weeks with them and if you want to make the most of it, you should be making meaningful relationships with them; not only on the professional level but also on a personal one. They want to get to know you as much as you want to get to know them — especially if you’re an international student from El Salvador with a vibrant passion for Latin dancing and foreign cuisines. My advice is that you touch base with all of the members of your team and ask them if there is anything in particular you can help them with; perhaps something that isn’t related to the account you’re working on. At Adobe, I found myself translating internal decks from English to Spanish. This was completely outside of my formal responsibilities, yet it went a long way and made an impact on my colleagues; one that demonstrated diligence and commitment. You could even go the extra mile and send a flower bouquet, a box of cookies or a twelve-pack of crafted beer for the team to enjoy. I guarantee you that such a form of gratitude will make you memorable. And when you’re about to start classes next semester, shoot them a message thanking them for everything you learned from them and even sharing a little bit about the classes you are taking this semester.
3. Pay It Forward
Getting an internship, whether it is your first, second or even third, is no easy task. In fact, most students are under a lot of pressure when applying to these positions in the efforts to build a better resume, get work experience, and if they’re lucky, make some cash. But think about this: Next year that same company you worked for will need to hire other interns, and if you’ve done a terrific job, you could offer a viable referral for a friend. One of the best feelings in the world is the ability to pay it forward. If you know someone who might be interested in your position, then refer them to the team. Give advice to other students, especially younger students, on how to go about the application; what sort of skills they’re looking for or what was the whole relocation process like. I encourage you to write a blog post reflecting on your whole experience, from your commute, to your tasks, to your perceptions on the company’s culture. Whatever it is you can help with, be sure to lend a hand to your fellow students.
4. Life is a journey. Never settle.
I’m not a big fan of popular quotes but a great man once said that you should “learn as if you were to live forever.” My last piece of advice for you is to never stop looking for better opportunities. Once you finish your internship, make sure you update your resume highlighting the tasks and responsibilities you were assigned. You can also ask your co-workers for recommendations, especially if you’re building a Linked In profile — which you should. You can even go a step ahead and build an online resume website with all your relevant work experience. Don’t settle with this one experience, in fact, start looking for better ones. Go out of state — California is great during the summer. Or why not go abroad? I’ve heard there is an awesome tech start-up scene in London and Tel-Aviv. Start planning your next big adventure but don’t forget to look back and be grateful for the trail you’ve left behind.