an intern’s life. flickr: Steve Webel
Now that it’s August, if you’re a summer intern, you’re probably heading back to school in less than a month—or worse, you’re being kicked out into the real world.
Allison Green explains at U.S. News & World Report what you should do in your internship before it’s too late…and Poynter’s Joe Grimm also posted a list recently of four things specific to journalists.
First, thank people. “Talk to your manager about what you got out of the experience, and thank her for giving you the opportunity to work with her. People love hearing this sort of thingâ€”don’t be shy about telling her,” says Green. Grimm’s list unintentionally echoes this but adds that you should really thank everyone, including “the people who handled your move, took care of payroll and helped you get reimbursements or appointments.”
Second, get feedback. And make sure you ask for it, both experts say, because exit interviews may not be standard practice. “Trying to finagle one on the last day will not lead to anything satisfying,” says Grimm.
Third, Green says, talk to people about your future plans, because they’ll probably have advice or job leads. Yours truly can attest to the power of this.
Fourth, update your resume, while the details of this internship are still fresh in your mind.
Fifth, reflect on the experience. “What do you wish you’d done differently or known when you started? Can you see yourself working in that field? Would you want to do the work you saw others doing? Was the culture one you’d like to work in again or try to avoid?”
Sixth, keep track of contacts you made. Export your Outlook address book if you’re extra organized, but mostly you just want to make sure you can reach your boss, mentors, and coworkers and that they can reach you. It doesn’t hurt, Green says, to send the occasional e-mail after you’ve left. “Very few interns bother to do this, but those who do really stand outâ€”and often develop professional relationships that serve them well long into their careers.”
Seventh, and this one’s from Grimm, make sure your references are in order. “Find out whom you can count on for this. Go for people who know you best — they will have more to say — not the ones with the biggest titles.” And ask them beforehand what they’d say. If you don’t like the answer, find someone else.
Eighth, get good copies of your work. Hard-copy clips or your portfolio are well and good for tacking to fridges but you need something you can e-mail, so if you’re able to grab PDFs of your reporting, copywriting, or PRing while you’re still inside the intranet, it’s that much easier.
Okay, so there weren’t really ten things, since these two experts had overlapping advice for the most part, but we’d add at least one for media pros to this list: make sure your portfolio is something you’re happy with. Assuming you have some time left, maybe now’s the time to try that crazy story on spec or ask to write a press release by yourself. If your internship turned out to be a bust because all you were doing was sorting files, see if you can find a way to transform that resume line item into something productive at the last minute. Ask for a bigger project, more responsibility, or do something awesome in your spare time that the company just loves.