August marks the beginning of the end (professionally speaking) for college students working as interns, as they prepare to head back to campus. Leverage an excellent experience with these tips on how to exit your internship or summer employment diplomatically.
1. End with the beginning in mind. What were you hired to do? Go back to your original job description and assess if you completed the tasks for which you were hired. It is perfectly normal for some of the objectives to have changed, but in general, the "big picture" reason you were hired is still valid usually. By reminding yourself of your "higher purpose," you can ensure that you are on track during your last days at work.
2. Add to the company's talent portfolio. Now that you are reminded of your job description, ask yourself, "Was I a good investment for the company?" Hiring is always an investment for an organization. The contributions may be made via training time, mentorship, distraction from everyday duties and/or monetary compensation, but all hiring uses valuable resources. The true test of any hire is if that investment paid off. By reviewing your work and overall impact, you can verify if you were a "gain" for the company or a "loss." If you are unsure or think you may be viewed less than positively, use your remaining time to change that viewpoint with high quality work.
3. Avoid drive-by relationships. The most successful professionals build long-term relationships. Figuratively speaking, they get out of the car, walk to the door, thank you for your assistance and ask how you are doing. The "drive-by" contact is more likely to call you when she needs something, get what she came for and then drive away. Set the foundation for long-term relationships by actively listening to the details and needs of others and then noting those needs for future use. When you see an opportunity to help a colleague, seize the chance. In return, when you need a favor, most likely your colleagues will return the courtesy. It can be as simple as offering to pick up a favorite type of snack on your Starbucks's run or bantering about college sports with an interested co-worker. The little things make a big impact and leave a positive lasting impression.
4. Connect using LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the platform for today's business networking. First, make sure you have a professional and flawless profile that includes this summer's position. Next, send LinkedIn invites to colleagues, mentors and supervisors. Once you are connected via LinkedIn, you can also request recommendations if appropriate. A tip to getting these is to create a sample recommendation and then include the sample with your request. You will always get more responses when someone can modify an existing recommendation versus having to create one from scratch.
5. Don't ask to be Facebook friends. LinkedIn is for professional networking. Facebook is for personal contacts and family. Most likely, while still in college, those two worlds should not mix.
6. Update your résumé. The best time to update your résumé is when your current work is fresh in your mind. Leverage the professional contacts around you at work by asking for their advice as to what you should include regarding your summer work. You will learn how they describe you as well as what things they view as most relevant professionally. If willing, you can also ask if a contact or two will give you advice on your résumé overall. Yes, it can be embarrassing to have someone review your résumé – but better to learn from people who already know and like you then to try out this very important document on a prospective future hiring authority.
7. Say thank you and goodbye. Take the time to personally say thank you and goodbye to all those with whom you interacted this summer. The emphasis is on all those with whom you interacted, and not just those whom you "worked for." Opportunities can come from some of the most unlikely places. It may be Vicky from the sales department who requests that you interview for a future position (she was so impressed with your witty hallway banter), even though you worked for Stan in accounting last summer (he now has no hiring budget). Additionally, a well-written thank-you note sent after you complete your work leaves a great impression.
Finding a summer internship or job is an accomplishment in itself. Don't let your efforts go to waste with a lackluster completion of your position. With these seven steps, you are sure to head back to school with the foundation set for future opportunities.
Robin Reshwan is the Founder of Collegial Services, a consulting/staffing firm that connects college students, recent graduates and the organizations that hire them and a certified Women's Business Enterprise (WBE). She has interviewed, placed and hired thousands of people across a broad spectrum of companies and industries. Her career tips and advice are used by universities, national clubs/associations and businesses. A Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Robin has been honored as a Professional Business Woman of the Year by the American Business Women's Association. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and as a Regents Scholar from University of California, Davis.