An internship, co-op, or Experiential Network project could be your gateway to a full-time job. Because of that, every step of the process is crucial, from how you address the hiring manager to how you handle yourself on the phone.
Stephanie Kaplan Lewis, co-founder, CEO, and editor-in-chief of Her Campus, a media company and young adult marketing agency, has helped Her Campus members secure internships with Vogue, the Washington Post, Digitas, and more. Through those internships, students have been able to build their resumé, hone their communication skills, and identify their strengths.
So, what needs to happen before, during, and after an internship to increase your chances of receiving a job offer post-graduation? Kaplan Lewis shares her tips for success.
The XN Blog: How can you better determine the culture of a company before stepping in on your first day?
Stephanie Kaplan Lewis: Before your internship begins, research the company you will be working for. Read up on their latest news and check out their social media profiles. Learn the history and find out what they are currently working on. Be sure to think about how this information might affect your job within the company.
If you think you have the culture down, how do you dress for it on that first day?
Different industries define “business casual” in different ways. Always err on the formal side at the beginning, and then adjust accordingly depending on what others in the office are wearing. Finance and consulting companies tend to be conservative, so wear neutral colors like black, navy, khaki, and grey with a blazer on top. In more creative fields, such as public relations and advertising, you might have more freedom when it comes to expressing your own unique style. If you are working in the tech industry, you may be allowed to wear jeans.
How do you communicate with your boss, whether that be offering ideas or asking for more structure, and ensure he or she is taking you seriously?
Ask questions! On your first day, ask your supervisor to meet for 30 minutes and review your intern responsibilities. Think of it as an opportunity to set expectations, explain what you hope to learn, and ask what your boss would like for you to accomplish. Also, discuss how often you should check in, how you should communicate—email, Gchat, in-office, call, or text—and whom you should contact if your supervisor is busy and you need help.
As your internship progresses, ask for career advice and constructive feedback from your boss. Request extra opportunities—to learn more about the field, to attend meetings, or to contribute to a big project. Always say “yes” to assignments, no matter how small or trivial they may seem, and have a positive attitude about completing your tasks. Showing that you are eager and willing to help out will make you the go-to intern.
In terms of expectations, how do you set personal goals for the internship?
First, figure out what you want to get out of your experience. Do you want to expand your resumé? Network with new contacts? Add to your portfolio? Turn your internship into a job? Determining this ahead of time will help you set achievable goals. Talk to your supervisor and find out what his or her goals are for you. Knowing these will also help you form your own goals. Then, create a list of everything your supervisor hopes you will accomplish by the end of your internship. Each day, check items off the list, and work on sharpening the skills needed to do them well.
What immediate steps should you take once the internship is over?
Follow up and say thank you. Handwrite thank you notes and give them out on your last day to your boss and anyone you worked closely with. Express your hopes to stay in touch: thank you notes can serve as a subtle reminder for a future recommendation or reference.
If you are interested, ask your supervisor about extra tasks that you can accomplish remotely once your internship is over. Offer to volunteer your services as a way to stay connected to the company when your internship ends. Make it known you want to remain involved.
Then, add your supervisor, co-workers, and fellow interns on LinkedIn. Write reviews and endorse people for skills you saw them utilize during the time you worked together. Remember to check in via email around the holidays, or if you see something notable in the news about the company.
For additional tips, tune in to the recent fireside chat the co-founders of Her Campus held with education firm General Assembly below.