Gen Z: Here’s How To Make the Most of Your Summer Internship

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As Gen Zers celebrate graduation season, many are thinking ahead to their summer internships. How can you make the most of this internship and come away from the experience with the necessary skills that will ensure you land a full-time opportunity? Whether you’re working in-office, hybrid or remote for your summer internship, follow these career-building tips to make the most of your internship and apply the experience to future jobs.

Be Proactive

Diane Gayeski, Ph.D. and professor of strategic communication at Ithaca College’s Roy H. Park School of Communications, recommends interns use their internships to do more than assigned tasks. 

Interns may also ask if they can sit in on meetings, introduce themselves to employees they run into and request that their supervisor provide feedback (preferably written) at least every two weeks about their performance.

Thoroughly Review the Company Website

What does the past and future of the business you’re interning at look like? Gayeski said interns should read the company’s website thoroughly, including its history. If you’re interning at a publicly traded company, interns may also read their annual reports, annual meeting agendas, track the stock price and look up what analysts are saying about the company. 

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You can use this information to ask questions that can get you introduced to other people or to highlight some of your knowledge and skills that might go beyond your current internship. Gayeski uses the example that an intern might notice one of the company’s goals in its most recent annual report is to improve its environmental impacts. Interns interested in this topic and that hope to take more courses in sustainability may inquire if there’s a member of the team they can have coffee with to learn more. 

If an intern doesn’t understand certain concepts, they may use their website research to receive coaching from experienced colleagues. A good example would be an intern that is majoring in communications and hopes to take an accounting course before they graduate because it’s important that they understand the financial aspects of business. If the intern read financial reports posted on the company’s website, they may ask if someone may be recommended to help them better understand how to read and interpret this kind of data. 

In addition to learning more about the business, Gayeski said reviewing the website also helps interns get familiar with employees. 

“Try to memorize names and faces of key executives or employees who are featured. See if you can follow their social media postings. If you happen to run into them, you can say hi and introduce yourself — mentioning something that you know about them,” said Gayeski.

Get Involved In Something That Makes You Invaluable

Heather Valle, account manager at Caliber Corporate Advisers, also leads Caliber’s Summer Graduate Associate program. Valle recommends interns use their internships to get involved in something that makes them invaluable to the team. 

Consider the skills you have, like podcasting or videography, that nobody else may be able to bring to the table. You can even involve yourself in a stale task that has been sitting in the corner that nobody else wanted to pick up. However, you went the extra mile to dust it off and make it your own. Now, the team can’t imagine functioning without it.

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Once you’re hired and settled into your internship, use this time to network with your colleagues. Valle said in a virtual environment especially, it’s incredibly easy to schedule in 15-minute coffee chats on your calendar. 

“Network with peers, managers and executives,” said Valle. “This allows you to learn from others and also casts a wider impression.”

Write Down Your Main Accomplishments as the Internship Wraps Up

As you approach the end of your internship, whether you’re applying for a job at that company, applying for a role at a different company or going back to another year of school, take some time to write down your main accomplishments. 

Daniel Lorenzo, marketing director at Let’s Eat, Grandma, said that when you’re applying for a new job your internship won’t speak for itself. Employers want to see tangible accomplishments on your resume that prove what you learned, not just your basic duties as an intern. 

The best way to maximize the power of your internship on your resume is by listing specific accomplishments with the skill you used or challenge you overcame, the result for the company and a number wherever possible. 

Lorenzo uses the example of an intern that may write “assisted with editing videos for social media” on their resume.

Take a moment to remember the specifics of that accomplishment. This will allow you to write a more impressive bullet point like this: “edited over 50 pieces of collateral using Final Cut Pro to produce engaging videos that each gained 300-400 engagements on the company’s social media channels.”

When should you start writing down your accomplishments? Lorenzo recommends starting before your internship ends. This ensures interns still have access to the results and numbers they’ll need before they have their email deactivated or lose access to the company’s Google Drive account. 

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Ask For a Recommendation

Before you leave your internship or the internship is fully completed, Gayeski recommends meeting with your supervisor. Use this time to not only ask for a written recommendation or a LinkedIn recommendation, but to ask for constructive feedback. 

“Tell your supervisor your eventual career goals and ask how you can best prepare yourself to achieve them. What courses should you take? What other types of experiences should you seek? What should you work on?” said Gayeski.

Asking these questions may allow interns to express their interest in working for the business and ask how they can follow up on opportunities. If your supervisor indicates that there are no opportunities on the horizon, Gayeski said interns may ask if their supervisor has any colleagues at other companies where they think you might be a fit. 

See If You Can Keep Any Artifacts

Earlier, we mentioned an example of an intern sharing a bullet point on their resume about editing engaging videos on social media that they accomplished during their internship. If possible, inquire if there are any artifacts — such as these videos — you created that the company would let you share in future job interviews or in your professional portfolio. 

Gayeski recommends getting the company’s permission if there’s any sensitive or confidential information in them and asking if those parts might be redacted if the rest of the material could be useful in showing your skills and experiences.

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