Do you want to know what is one of the best feelings in the world? Walking across the stage at graduation with a job waiting for you. Want to know what’s even better? Having a job lined up in December when you graduate in May. I know this from experience. My client, we’ll call her Sarah, had a job offer in hand before Christmas from the company she interned for the summer before. #Goals, right?
When you’re an intern, you have two choices – you can skate through the summer just counting the hours until you can hit the beach after work and counting the days until you can go back to school, or you can make the most of your summer internship and set yourself up for success long before graduation.
Your summer internship is one of the first times you have the opportunity to meet and develop meaningful relationships with people in the “real world”. Take advantage of this! When it comes to getting a job in the future, the more people you know, the better off you’ll be.
Develop your network by going out of your way to introduce yourself to people within the company. Too many interns focus solely on their work and are content to fade into the background. Set yourself apart by meeting your co-workers during the first few days in the office and you’re on the right track towards creating profitable business relationships.
As you’re meeting new people, consider seeking out a mentor that is willing to help you navigate the eventual transition from college to the working world. Do you really click with your boss? Have you had great conversations with another co-worker? Consider asking them to stay in touch with you when the summer is over. They’ll be flattered that you asked and you can reach out to them for insight as you begin considering your career path.
Take this time during your summer internship to hone your business networking skills. Many college students wait until it’s too late to learn how to properly network, thus missing out on the opportunity to stand out in job searches. Learn how to make meaningful connections by attending networking events with colleagues, happy hour with co-workers, or treating every interaction as a chance to build your network.
Intimidated by the whole networking idea? Here’s a little something to help you get started.
Learn as Much as You Can
Your mission should be to learn as much as possible about as much as possible. Remember that your internship is not solely about the technical skills that you learn on the job. This is also a great opportunity to develop more marketable “soft skills” that employers are really looking for.
Take advantage of any and all training opportunities that your company offers. Is there a lunch and learn that one of your vendors is hosting? Be there. An opportunity to shadow the CEO for a day? Absolutely. Make sure that you’re in the mindset of being ready to learn as much about the business as possible.
One of the biggest things that employers are looking for when students graduate from college are what they consider “soft skills”. This is basically anything that they can’t train you on. For example, they can teach you how to work a specific software, but they can’t give you the skills to know how to present that to a group. Use your internship as a way to build up soft skills such as email communication, presentation, negotiation, and teamwork. These will be appreciated as you move up through the corporate ranks.
Put Your Stamp on a Project
Throughout the course of your internship, make a point to take on additional roles and responsibilities as the opportunities present themselves. Is there a project that needs a team leader? A problem that needs solved that none of the full-time employees can take on? This is one of the quickest ways to make a lasting impression on co-workers and colleagues.
Start by identifying a problem that needs to be solved. Maybe the different divisions of the company could be more integrated or a process more streamlined. Many times, you have the advantage of coming in with an outsider perspective and you are able to offer solutions that others can’t see. Make sure that you run it by your boss before you begin working on solving a problem, but more likely than not, they’ll be impressed that you’re taking initiative.
Once it has been cleared by your manager, assemble the necessary team and work hard to create a solution that will continue to provide value long after you return to school. Not only will this impress your company, but it will increase the likelihood that you’ll be offered another internship or full time position once you graduate, and you’ll also be able to boost your resume by pointing to a specific project that you spearheaded.
I had a different internship every summer that I was in college, and it’s the first thing that I recommend to college students who ask me what they can be doing to prepare for entering the workforce. But, the primary reason I suggest this is not because it will give you skills, experience, or connections to prepare you for your job search, but rather because I think that having as many internships as possible is crucial to giving you the clarity you need to start your career.
As you’re working over the summer, be thinking about what aspects of the job you enjoy. Even if it’s something as simple as planning the intern picnic or presenting ideas to your manager. Take notes about the tasks that energize you and what motivates you on your way to work each morning.
On the other hand, are there parts of your role or environment that were not a good fit for you? Take note of that too!
Finally, at the end of your internship, ask your manager for a quick meeting to gain insightful feedback about your performance over the summer. What were your strengths and where do you have opportunities to improve? Use that knowledge to guide your internship or job search strategy going forward to make sure that you land a job that you love.
Summer is a great time to decompress, hit the beach, and recharge for the next semester but it can also serve to lay the groundwork for a great career after school. Take advantage of your internships with these simple strategies to make sure you’re setting yourself up for success. After all, you’ll have plenty of time to relax knowing you have a job offer waiting for you when all of your classmates are frantically searching for jobs before graduation.
Brette Rowley is a contributor for The Young Hopeful and a Career Coach in Charleston, South Carolina. She can most often be found speaking to groups of young professionals or working with them one-on-one to build meaningful careers and land jobs they love. However, in her spare time she loves traveling, taking her dog Mellie to the beach, and tailgating for Clemson football games (or any sporting event, really). Connect with Brette on her site, Instagram, and Twitter!