As you are all getting ready for finals week, I am sure many of you are spending all your waking hours wondering how to really make the most of your summer internship? OK, so you are not, but it is important to note that your summer internship or volunteer opportunity is more likely to be the next step in your career than any class or time spent searching for opportunities online.
I did my first summer internship between my sophomore and junior year. I had applied to a number of outdoor education summer experiences but finally was hired after a phone interview with the Voyageur Outward Bound School. Being from warm, sunny California, I was not prepared for what met me in a summer in Minnesota. In case you are from warm, sunny California, Northern Minnesota has dramatic summers full of thunderstorms, wind and mosquitoes. After a few cool (is this summer?) nights I had to make a quick trip to the second hand store for sweaters and a rain jacket.
Although I was unprepared for the weather in Minnesota, I was prepared for my internship and that preparation made my summer a real success. Having started the summer with no experience and no guarantee of future work, I was asked to help co-lead a canoe course in my second month there. How can you prepare for success in any internship? Here are 5 ways to get ready…
- Do your research. Find out as much as you can about the company you will be working for, the city or town, etc. Try to connect with people who work for that company already to get advice about the internship.
- Show up ready to learn. You are an intern so no job is too small for you. Ask questions all day long. Take notes, have fun.
- Volunteer for everything. Evening event? Holiday Party? Whatever it is..do it and do it with a smile. If nothing else, you will get an amazing recommendation letter when you are done.
- Network. Get to know everyone. Connect with them on social media platforms before the summer is out so these connections do not go away. Make a special attempt to get to know hiring managers or bosses.
- Say thank you… in a card, publicly or however is appropriate when you leave. Make sure you specially thank those who have taken extra time teaching you the ropes.
My summer internship led to 10 years of work with Outward Bound and a Masters Degree in a related field. Whether your internship is outdoors or in a fortune 500 company, being prepared may help you focus in on what you really want to do when you grow up.