The Post-Internship Checklist: 9 Things You Should Do

  • Saying Goodbye

    Back in June, MainStreet looked at some expert tips for making the most of an internship. Now that the summer is drawing to a close and internships are coming to an end, it’s time to make your exit in the best way possible. After all, you’ve hopefully spent all summer impressing everyone in the company with your work ethic and intelligence; it would be a shame to waste that by not making a good last impression. So let’s say your summer internship is ending on Friday. Here is what you should be doing in the next few days (and beyond) to put the icing on the cake that is your internship. Photo Credit: Getty Images
  • Self-Reflection

    Internships aren’t just about burnishing your résumé and getting your foot in the door of a prospective employer. They’re also about learning, building skills and getting experience for the working world. So before you busy yourself with the task of networking and laying the groundwork for employment, take some time to really reflect on what you’ve learned from the experience. “Step back one night and evaluate and reflect on what you’ve learned,” says Robin Richards, CEO of “Did you demystify the work environment and learn the rules of engagement that you didn’t know before? Say to yourself, ‘Here’s what I thought going in, and here’s what I learned.’” Photo Credit: Getty Images
    Build Your Portfolio
  • Build Your Portfolio

    As you are leaving your internship, remember that you’re not just gathering memories to take with you – you also want to pull together any important papers or projects you worked on so that you can build a portfolio. The last thing you want to do is realize a week later that you never made a copy of the big project you spent two weeks laboring over. “Collect all of your reports and projects and documents, and look at them,” says Richards. “Reformat them and incorporate them into your portfolio.” What sort of formatting is required will depend on your profession – clips from a journalism internship will differ from samples of graphic design work. In general, though, Richards recommends giving each sample a heading and writing an introduction that explains what went into the project while the details are still fresh in your mind. Photo Credit: Getty Images
    Update Your Résumé
  • Update Your Résumé

    Too many people wait until they’re about to apply to a job before they update their résumé, and if you’re going back to school for another year before entering the workforce, you might fall into this trap after it’s too late to put the important information on paper. “Update your résumé while the experiences are fresh in your mind,” says Samantha Zupan, spokesperson for career website “Come next summer, it’s going to be a lot harder to remember the things you were doing.” Be comprehensive with what you put in there. In all likelihood, simply putting that you were a summer intern and describing your responsibilities in broad terms won’t do you justice. “Take the time to stop and think about the work you’ve accomplished and the skills you learned,” says John Challenger, CEO of consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “Portray what you did as something really substantial, not just a summer fling.” Photo Credit: Getty Images
    Build Your Network
  • Build Your Network

    It’s all about who you know, and hopefully this internship gave you, a college student or recent grad, a unique opportunity to meet people working in your anticipated career field. Before you leave, make sure you solidify those connections. “Go to your supervisor and department head and ask them if it’s OK to connect with them on LinkedIn,” says Richards, who notes that this is important even if they’re not hiring. “If they know you’ve done good work but aren’t hiring, they still might know a lot of people in that industry that can vouch for you.” Zupan adds that you should also take advantage of other social networks like Twitter and Facebook – though with the latter, you’ll want to be careful with your privacy settings to make sure your professional contacts aren’t seeing anything you’d rather keep to friends and family. Photo Credit:
    Inquire Within
  • Inquire Within

    If you liked your internship, then you’re not just looking for connections to help you with a later job search – you’re probably looking to get a permanent job offer to work at the same company. That may require some effort beyond the work you’ve already put in as an intern, so before you start working your contacts at the company, find out whether a job opening actually exists. Even if it isn’t clear whether the company can hire any interns for full-time positions, Challenger says there’s nothing wrong with telling your supervisor that you’re interested in a full-time position. And if you’re going back to school for another year but can conceivably continue working or interning in some capacity part-time, ask if such an arrangement would be possible. “Find out if there’s an opportunity to continue the internship part-time while you’re still in school,” suggests Zupan. Photo Credit: Getty Images
    Say The Right Things
  • Say The Right Things

    If it looks like a full-time gig might be in the cards, then it’s time to use those last few days to make a great lasting impression. That means going to your supervisor, department head and company president (if possible) and saying all the right things. “Tell your supervisor how much this experience meant to you, and thank them,” advises Richards. “If there’s a department head with whom you interfaced, do the same thing and let them know that your supervisor was very helpful. And if you can get any interaction at all with the head honcho… Compliment them on the company’s culture.” Sure, it may smack of brown-nosing if you lay it on too thick, but as long as you mean what you say and seem sincere, it will make a good lasting impression with the people who matter. Photo Credit: Getty Images
    Keep At It
  • Keep At It

    Your efforts to parlay your experience into a larger opportunity shouldn’t end when the internship ends. If you’re entering your last year of college and will be looking for a permanent position with the company, Richards lays out a comprehensive game plan for the next several months to make that happen. First, he says, send hand-written thank-you notes to your supervisor and the company president, and at least an email to the department head. “Young people don’t hand-write enough, so it has real impact versus the hundred emails,” he says. A month later, follow up with an email updating your supervisors on how you’ve been, and a month after that, consider taking the initiative of independently completing and sending in a project that you think they would find helpful. “It shows them that you paid attention to what they did and thought about something that would help their business, with no expectation of pay,” he says. Photo Credit: Getty Images
    Make Your Move
  • Make Your Move

    If a few months pass without the company sending you a job offer or making further contact, write your supervisor to ask for a letter of reference. “If they don’t want you to go somewhere else, they’ll say, ‘Hey, why don’t you come work here instead,’” he explains. “It gives them the opening without getting in their face. Hopefully they take that opening; otherwise, you at least have a reference letter.” If they don’t take the opportunity to make a job offer, you should let a few more months pass and then contact the human resources department directly – hopefully you’ll have the contact info of someone in the department so your inquiry isn’t put in with every other unsolicited application – and ask how you can go about applying for a position with the company. Photo Credit: Getty Images
    Put It Behind You
  • Put It Behind You

    If you follow these tips (and of course if you impressed your supervisors during the actual internship), then you should have put yourself in a good position to get a job offer. Regardless of the final outcome, though, let’s fast-forward a few years, by which point you’ll have hopefully worked a couple of positions in your chosen field. At that point it may seem out of place to still include the internship as part of your work experience. Should you take it out? “You might leave it in as a position but take out the substance, because it’s been superseded,” says Challenger, suggesting five years as a good time to consider paring down your description of what you did back when you were a lowly intern. Still, you shouldn’t ever take it out entirely. “You never know whether a hiring manager might know someone from your old company,” he points out. Photo Credit: Getty Images
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