Written based on the expertise of Eric Johnson, Executive Director of Graduate Career Services. For the full version of Eric's talk, click here.
With the stress and pressure involved in finding the right internship, it can feel like the war has been won when you finally hear that you got the offer. Truth be told, the hard work is just getting started. There are two primary objectives for your summer: #1 to obtain an offer and #2 to gain experience that translates well for a full-time job search while leaving a favorable impression on those you worked with throughout the summer. One major point to highlight here – even if this isn’t your dream company, do not throw in the towel for the summer saying, “It doesn’t matter if I get an offer. I don’t want to work here anyway.” Full-time recruiters will be asking whether or not you received an offer, and there’s no sense in wasting a summer because you’re not exactly where you want to be.
A few things to note from a career standpoint; you should be practicing interviewing all summer long and making it a point to meet one new person each week. We’d recommend contacting the alumni chapter for the city you’re in. It’s a great chance to expand your network and connect with people outside of your company. You should also be in touch with recruiters from companies you’re interested in for full-time opportunities. You’ve laid the groundwork during your first year, but don’t let those connections fade over the summer. Let them know where you’ll be spending the summer, and check in throughout the summer. Keep in mind not to share any sensitive information – violating a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is a huge red flag for what could be a potential employer.
Pre-Start Date – Whether or not your internship will be successful begins before you get to headquarters. Use the time between getting the offer and your start date to become as much of an expert you can be on the company you’ll be working for: read industry reports, listen to the Q1 earnings call, set up Google alerts for your company, and research their competition. Begin figuring out how the company makes money as this will be a key piece of information for you to be able to add value. It’s okay for this understanding to continue through week one of being on the job. This is also a great time to set up a call with your manager. While it may seem like a given that they’ll be there for your first day, it is summer and your start date may fall near a holiday or a vacation. Better to know now than on your first day so that you can make a plan.
Week One – Once your official start date hits, have a conversation early on about how success is defined, the project(s) you’ll be working on, and what the deliverable(s) for the end of the summer look like. If you have a voice in when the deliverable is due, make the request that you present or turn in the deliverable the week before you’re slated to leave. This way there will be time to complete any follow-up items and transition your work to the person who will continue with the momentum you’ve built. Scheduling a midpoint presentation is also a good way to gain exposure and socialize your project progress and yourself. If you have any say in this, try to put it on the calendar early.
Weeks Two and Three – This is when you’ll start getting into the thick of it. Use the first part of this time for research and data collection. From here, you’ll begin to synthesize the information which will lead to the foundation/outline of the story you’re going to tell. One outside the box tip that might be helpful: at this point, it’s often valuable if you’re able to sit in on a sales training or customer service call center. This will help get at the heart of the issue you’re trying to resolve.
Weeks Four thru Six – Now it’s time to begin forming your argument/hypothesis. Be transparent throughout, but particularly during this time. There shouldn’t be any surprises for your supervisor or stakeholders. Making sure you have their backing now will save you a huge amount of time on the back end and ensure you’re meeting expectations.
Weeks Seven and Eight – The ideal time to start building your final deliverable is 3-4 weeks prior to your end date. If you’ve got a twelve-week internship, you can wait until week seven or eight, but be sure to make the adjustment if your internship is shorter than this. It’s also important to be practicing with someone, whether that be other interns, your coach, or your academy director. No matter who you choose, the first time you give your presentation should not be the day of your final presentation.
As your internship comes to a close, complete any and all follow-ups that resulted from your final presentation, and begin to transition your project to the person in charge of continuing it. Be sure to schedule a formal review with your supervisor before you go. Connect with other companies you’re interested in for full-time positions, and update your LinkedIn and resume, once again being cognizant of NDAs. And voila – that’s basically it. Enjoy the little bit of summer you have left, and come back ready to go in the fall!