Summer is finally here! If you are a college student, it was fun in the sun during May, but now it’s internship time. The internship and job market are competitive nowadays with students requiring internships earlier in their college careers to help build up their attraction to companies. But getting that coveted internship is half the battle. You haven’t won the battle until you get the offer to return again the following year – whether it’s a full-time job or an invitation to intern again. And everyone wants that offer – regardless of whether you accept it. As someone who has managed formal summer programs across some of Wall Street’s finest institutions, I have some suggestions to help you perform well this summer and get that offer!
Do a little spring cleaning: You’ve got some work to do before the internship. Take time to clean up your presence on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Check your pictures and comments to make sure its nothing your mother wouldn’t want to see. You are going to be meeting people this summer and establishing professional relationships, which may lead to “friend” requests. Make sure you are portraying the image you want to portray to your future employer and coworkers. If you need help, try Social Sweeper – an app that scans through your Facebook and Twitter accounts to help you identify those red flag comments and photos. Make sure you are also googling yourself and checking the images to ensure nothing surprising exists there as well.
Get on LinkedIn: LinkedIn is eliminating the need for business cards and hardcopy resumes. Get on it if you aren’t already on it. Add a picture, write some content, make connections and start building your professional social media presence. Everyone uses it now for networking, finding jobs, maintaining contacts, growing sales and finding new clients. Your college may have some great LinkedIn groups to join, which will help you build your network. Throughout your summer internship, make sure you connect with anyone you meet with on LinkedIn.
Make the effort with the team: You may be one intern joining a team of 2, 10 or 20. Your team will only have to get to know you while you’ll need to get to know 20 people. Ask for a team organizational chart or team roster and start taking notes about the people you meet to help you remember names. Make it a goal to get to know everyone’s name quickly and ask to set up time to get to know them. The more proactive you are in getting to know the team, the more eager they will be to work with you and get you involved in meetings, projects, etc. Be sure to get a good understanding of the team dynamics and company culture. For example, ask your manager about work hours as well as lunch practices.
Set up weekly meetings: Schedule weekly meetings with your manager for 1:1 time and feedback. You want to know at all times how you are performing during the summer. Make sure you are getting developmental feedback so you know what to work on during the summer. There should be no surprises at the end of the summer about the offer decision if you stick to these meetings and seek constant feedback.
Ask questions: All-star interns take the time to review the project, understand it, ask the right questions and work independently to complete it. It’s important that you understand what you are doing and how to do it. If you don’t, always ask questions rather than assume you know the answer or the right way to do it.
Go above and beyond: You’ll want to review with your manager the first week what your job entails and his/her expectations. Focus on achieving those goals, but also go above and beyond that. Seek stretch assignments. Does your team need an updated org chart if no one had one that first week? Does your team need updated procedures? Is there something they are doing that could be done better? Ask yourself all those questions and then go answer them. If you worked on a big project during the summer, ask to present on it at the end of the summer to your team members or senior management. It will show your passion for your work and allows you to exercise your presentation skills.
Be more than prompt: Let’s face it. You aren’t used to waking up at 5 or 6am right now. It will be an adjustment. Don’t be late for work, meetings, scheduled events, etc. Make it a habit to get to the office 20 – 30 minutes before your scheduled start time. That way you have a buffer for commuting issues, and you’ll have to a chance to catch up on the news or emails before everyone else gets into the office.
Document your achievements: Send your manager a daily or weekly email of what you did including a status of any ongoing assignments. Send one as an example to your manager and if they prefer it daily or weekly. It will keep you organized. It will inform your manager of how you are spending your time and progressing with your goals. Lastly, it will provide a good baseline for you and your manager for your formal performance reviews.
Network. Network. Network: Network with your team members. Network with other interns. If you are in a formal program, try to meet them for lunch or coffee breaks. Network with other managers. Find alums from your college at the company to network with (use LinkedIn if you need help). Build your network at the company and capitalize on your time to maximize your learning opportunities. Just be sure to keep performing in your job, and do not let networking negatively affect your performance.
Be a sponge: You are going to embark on a great learning experience. Not just in the actual work you’ll be doing, but by taking in the office environment, company culture, team dynamics and much more. Learn. Absorb. Take notes. Carry a notebook or iPad to write, remember and question. Taking notes and showing curiosity demonstrates your enthusiasm and your eagerness to learn.
These tips will help you regardless of whether you are working at a local marketing firm, a start-up in San Francisco or large financial institution in New York City. Enjoy the experience and learn all that you can!
An abbreviated version of this article was published in The Villanovan and at http://bit.ly/1bxuxQ7.