Over the course of this spring semester, I covered steps in the internship search process. As a wrap-up to the series, here is the complete listing of “Get That Internship!” posts. Enjoy!
How to Find an Internship
How to Target Your Resume for Internship Applications
Internship Applications: What Do You Need?
How to Prepare for Internship Interviews
Ace Your Internship Interviews
Appropriate Interview Follow-Up
What to Do When You Receive an Internship Offer
Start Preparing for Your Summer Internship
Top Three Tips for Internship Success
I hope you found this internship advice useful, and I hope it helped you in completing a successful internship search. Best of luck in the next part of your internship journey!
Summer internships will be starting very soon. Just in case you’re not prepared for that yet, here’s your pre-summer internship to-do list.
Once you get started and settle into your new work situation, it’s time to be strategic and set yourself up to make the most of the experience. Here are my top three tips for internship success:
- Go above and beyond the call of duty. Hopefully, you will have plenty of work to keep you busy at your internship. Some of that work you might not be super excited to do, like filing or making copies. Do this work without complaint, and treat these tasks with the same respect you show to other more “important” assignments. Sometimes, you’ll complete all of your work and have free time on your hands. Make that time count by looking for more to do and asking others if there is anything you can do to help them. An internship is your opportunity to make a good professional impression and gain as much experience as possible. Approach the entire experience with gusto!
- Network with everyone. One of the greatest benefits of an internship is meeting professionals in your field. You’ll learn the ropes of your future profession from seasoned veterans and maybe even find a mentor. But in the realm of professional relationships, connecting with co-workers NOT directly in your line of work is often overlooked. An important lesson to learn in networking is that anyone could become a valuable contact. Just because you think that a person in a different line of work can be of no help to you professionally, keep in mind that you never know where life may lead you. Get to know a variety of people at your internship and understand that variety is what makes a good network.
- Challenge yourself. Who really wants to push themselves during the summer? Summer is all about relaxing, isn’t it? It could be, but you’re an intern. Challenge yourself to try new things or take on assignments that are a little uncomfortable. By pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone, you will grow personally and professionally. And it’s this kind of growth that makes your internship a great one.
There are many, many more ways to be a successful intern. For more tips, see my Pinterest board, Best Practices for the Workplace.
Photo from Number 17
Ready for your summer internship? Brace yourself – You’re only about a month to a month and a half from starting. And I’m sure you know how quickly the last few weeks of the semester will fly by.
Here is your summer internship preparation to-do list for the next few weeks:
- Confirm all important logistical details: Your start date, what time you need to arrive at work, what type of workspace you will have (ex. Will you have a desk?), and how much time you have for a lunch break. As you get closer to your start date, consider a travel test run or two, figuring out the best transportation and route options as well as establishing familiarity with the area if it’s new to you.
- Do your homework. Think that just because the interview process is over, you can stop researching the company? Think again. Continue to learn as much as you can about your host organization to be prepared for any work that might come your way. Set up a Google Alert for the company to get any news, blog posts, and other online content related to the organization emailed directly to you. Start reading industry blogs and publications to understand trends and the competition. Spend more time reviewing the company’s website to be as familiar as possible with the organization. Connect with the organization and future co-workers on social media: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Make sure your social media profiles are “clean” before you connect, and keep them clean permanently.
- Check in with your company contact a week out from your start date. Touch base via phone or email. Ask for any details you may still need, like parking information. Ask if there are any last minute things you can do to prepare for your first day. Reiterate your excitement to start your internship.
- Prepare for your first day. Figure out what you will wear on your first day and make sure it’s clean, pressed, and ready to go. Plan your lunch break by packing a lunch or getting money to buy lunch. Gather any materials you need, like a notepad and pen or any materials the company provided to you (ex. info packet, parking permit, etc.). Go to bed early and get a good night’s sleep (try to do this for a few nights in advance for the best results). Set your alarm to go off a little earlier than usual to give yourself plenty of time to get ready and head for the office.
As you complete all of your prep work, don’t forget to step back for a moment and recognize your success. You secured an internship and are on your way to developing as a young professional. This is an exciting time. Don’t lose sight of this excitement through any first-day jitters.
Photo by sharyn morrow / Creative Commons licensed BY-NC-ND 2.0
So you found, applied for, and interviewed for some summer internships. And after a little bit of a wait, you receive the call you’ve been hoping for: You are offered an internship!
For many students, receiving an internship offer is the first major employment offer experience. How do you handle the process? Here are some tips:
- Take your time. Can you ask for time to think about the offer? Yes, you can. However, understand that there are limits. Can you have weeks to think about it? No. A few days? Sure. Here is an example of how to ask for some time: “Thank you for the internship offer. I am excited about the opportunity to work at _______. This is an important decision, and I would like more time to consider the offer. When do you need an answer by?”
- Get all of the details. When would you be expected to start working? Is the internship paid or unpaid? Consider your own details, too. Do you have vacations plans already in place for which you would need time off from work? What costs might you personally incur for the internship, such as the cost of commuting? Before you say yes, you want to have all of the details ironed out. If the date the employer would like you to begin is before the end of the semester, negotiate a slightly later start date. If you need time off for a planned vacation, clear this now and not at the last minute. If it’s an unpaid internship that you will cost you in terms of commuting, could the organization provide you a lunch stipend to offset the cost?
- Evaluate the internship. Ideally, you focused your applications on internships you really wanted. It’s still likely that there were certain opportunities that you were more excited for than others. Take a step back and reevaluate the opportunity that is being offered to you in relation to your goals for an internship:
- Is this the work you want to do? Look at the job functions again and assess how the internship will fit into your overall career goals.
- Will you have the opportunity to work on challenging projects and build upon your skills and strengths? Would you enjoy the work?
- Do you like the organization? When you visited for your interview, did you feel like the work environment was a good “fit” for you?
- Are there any perks or future opportunities with this position?
- Accept or decline the offer. Make your final decision and get back to the employer in a timely manner. Speak directly with your contact at the organization. Don’t leave a voicemail for this type of message. Follow up with a written confirmation via email.
Once you accept an internship offer, contact any other organizations with which you applied to let them know that you have accepted an internship and would like to withdraw your name from their candidate pool. Understand that it is unethical for you to continue interviewing after accepting an internship offer, and you risk damaging your professional reputation if you renege (i.e. change your mind and turn down the internship after already accepting the position). Stay firm in your decision.
The more common concern students have is receiving an offer for one internship while still waiting to hear from their top choice opportunity. In this case, inform the organization offering you an internship that you are wrapping up the recruiting process and that you hope to make your decision by a specific date. Keep that date within one week. It isn’t fair to string them along and delay their process, especially if there is a strong chance that you may decline. Plus, anything more than a week will definitely tell them that their opportunity is not your first choice.
Follow up with your top choice employer to see if they have made a decision. Let them know that you have received another offer, but that their opportunity is your first choice. While this may speed up their process if you are their top candidate, be prepared for the employer to tell you that they will not have a decision made by the time you need it. When this happens, it’s difficult decision time.
Do you have any concerns when it comes to accepting or declining an internship opportunity? What seems to be the trickiest part of the process?
I teach Career Information in Arts & Communication (ACINDP 399) at UW-Whitewater. Last semester, I hosted an Employer Panel during the final week of class. During this Q&A session, one student asked the employers how many thank you notes they receive after interviews. Without hesitation, one employer said, “Not enough.”
Good career advice always includes the importance of following up after interviews. Unfortunately, people either don’t follow up at all or follow up inappropriately. As you move through the internship interview process, keep the following post-interview tips in mind:
- Send a thank you note immediately after every interview. There is no better way to follow up after an interview than the thank you note. While email is becoming more acceptable, nothing beats a nice hand-written note. However you choose to send your thank you, make sure you do so within 24 hours. During one of my hiring committee experiences, the last thank you card the committee received after the interviews was from the first person to interview. Not good. Here are five more post-interview thank you note mistakes to avoid.
- Keep the timeline in mind when planning any direct follow up. If you are contemplating a phone call to follow up, make sure it isn’t too soon. How do you know when it is acceptable to call? From the interview itself. Ideally, your interviewer will let you know when to expect to hear back. If they don’t tell you, make this one of your questions at the end of the interview. If they tell you to expect to hear something NEXT Friday, don’t call them anytime before that date. If you haven’t heard anything by that time, then you can contact them. I recently heard that a good expectation is to hear back from an employer within a week to 10 days. So if you didn’t get timeline information during your interview, use this as a guideline.
- Don’t be a pest. There is a fine line between appropriate interview follow-up and being an annoyance. Send your thank you note. Contact them if you don’t hear back within the stated timeline. Then just chill out. While it can be frustrating to not hear back or to wait, it’s just a reality of the hiring process. If you keep calling and emailing and LinkedIn messaging and… You will drive the employer nuts and drive yourself right out of contention.
Anxiety during the post-interview waiting process is to be expected. Follow up appropriately and keep your peace of mind knowing you did the “right” thing. Relax and hope for good news!