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13 Must-Dos Before Your Summer Internship Ends

A woman smiles in front of a colorful brick wall.

A Summer internship is a great way to hone your skills, develop professional relationships, explore different career paths, and determine whether your passion for a cause area translates to a career that excites you. Whether it’s your first internship or your third, check out our list of things to do before your summer internship ends. The items on this list will help you reflect on your experiences, gauge areas of learning and improvement, and maintain your professional relationships.

Get started on these ASAP

These are good habits to get into once you start any new internship, job, or volunteer experience. If you haven’t already been engaging in these activities, it’s as good a time as any to get cracking!

Take daily notes

Write down what you did at your internship each day. Then go beyond the actual tasks to deeper reflections- challenges you had, things you did well, interactions with coworkers that you felt you could have handled better, what you learned, and any new ideas you had. Also reference how your ideas were received, how you implemented them, and your observations along the way.

Review your notes

On a daily or at least weekly basis, read over your notes. What has improved? What new projects are you working on? What have you discovered about what you like and don’t like in this type of work? How aligned do you feel to the organization’s mission? Is this a pitstop on your career path or do you plan on being involved in this cause area and type of work for the long term?

Pay attention to office dynamics

Who are the movers and shakers, the leaders and changemakers at the organization? Is your supervisor a manager, or a leader? Just because someone has a management role doesn’t mean they are particularly dynamic, so take note of what other employees are doing and what their influence is. Perhaps it’s an administrative assistant who has a knack for getting employees to deliver on their promises. Maybe a program officer made you feel purposeful and unique by acknowledging the value of not only your work, but your imprint on humankind at large.

What is it about these employees that make them dynamic or influential? Also take note of how others at the organization react to them- with respect, envy, appreciation, etc. What do these insights tell you about the type of environment you’d like to work in?

Ask for feedback

Self assessment has its value, but also ask your supervisor for feedback on your performance. Set a schedule that feels right for you and is respectful of your supervisor’s time- would a weekly check-in work? Will feedback take place in person or over email?

Ask whether you are delivering on expectations, how you can do your work better or more efficiently, what resources to use to enhance your skills, and of course, what are you doing right and should be doing more of? What have your contributions to the organization been as your manager sees them?

Create a learning opportunity

If your internship isn’t what you were expecting, identify opportunities to learn something new with the time you have left. Perhaps there is a project you can work on in another department or a few case studies you can read through to give you deeper insight into the work you’re doing and its potential impact on the organization.

Talk to your coworkers

This is something else you could do from day one, but if you haven’t, get started now. In fact, use your late start to your advantage---now that you have a lay of the land, you’ll know what type of questions to ask and have a better idea of how their role fits into the mission of the organization. You can schedule these in advance (“Can we go to lunch tomorrow?”) or keep it impromptu, based on who you encounter during each day.

Either way, pick one person to talk to- ask about their work projects, what their career path has been, what they like most about their work, and any advice they have for an emerging professional like yourself. If you’ve worked with them during your internship, show your appreciation for their work and be transparent about any interest you might have in keeping in touch once your internship is over.

The week before your last day

Read through these activities and gauge how much time you will need for them. You may need more lead time for some and less for others, but on average, the week before is a good time to start.

Draft an “operations manual”

One way to leave an impression is to draft a brief guide for your successor (leave it with your manager). Outline any tips for streamlining the work and what you learned along the way that will help the person who continues the work where you left off. Also share notes with your coworkers- observations, ideas, etc- that will help them fill in the gaps on any projects you collaborated with them on.

Wrap up your projects

Complete any assignments that you’re still working on. Take notes on any loose ends and resources that will help the team finish up. Write a list of anyone you’ve been in contact with and are waiting to hear back from. If you’ve been working on an ongoing project that will still exist after your departure, tell your supervisor where you left off, and leave any notes that will help the next person who picks up the work. Share the locations of any important files or documents.

Update your resume

Highlight your accomplishments and outline your best and most enhanced skills. (Remember, these should also be ones that relate to the type of job you are seeking.) Ask your manager or another trusted coworker to read over your new document and give you their feedback.

Ask about office protocol for departures

Find out what you need to do before you leave. Your manager may give you this information, but you’ll make a good impression by proactively asking about these details. For example, will your email will be shut off immediately or should you should set an away message directing inquiries to another member of the team? Which staff member should you direct people to? Will you have to complete an exit interview?

Your last day

Congratulations, you made it through your internship! Don’t you feel like more of a professional now? Celebrate with your coworkers and reflect on the next steps of your career path.

Write thank-you notes

Everyone appreciates being acknowledged for the good work that they do. Come prepared on your last day with written notes to your coworkers and manager to show your appreciation for their guidance and support, as well as an anecdote that describes a learning experience you had while working with them. Include your contact information and mention your interest in keeping in touch.

Clean up your desk or workspace

Leave your work area neat and tidy. Throw out any unnecessary papers (be sure to ask your manager if they need them) or shred them if they contain confidential information. Create a list of any office supplies, files, and notes you’ve left behind and their locations.

Share your stories

Whether at a staff lunch or meeting, find a good time to share your insights and favorite parts of interning at the organization. You can also verbally thank any employees who were instrumental in your positive experience at the organization and reiterate your interest in keeping in touch. Also let your coworkers know what’s next for you!

Through reflection and preparation, you can enhance the time you have remaining in your internship.

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By Victoria Crispo

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