Landing an internship is one of the most exciting parts of student life. There’s something about being handpicked for a job from a group of your peers that makes you feel on top of the world.
Regardless of whether you were shuffling papers, meeting with clients, or in charge of the morning coffee, you should respect the job you did and know that you made a difference in someone’s day. Whether you took the internship to fill your resume, or whether you hope to secure a future with the company, you should always be on your best behavior as an intern. You are making contacts you may rely on for years to come and are gaining experience that may prove invaluable later.
When the internship’s over and the job you looked forward to is almost behind you, be sure to leave your mark on the minds of your former supervisors and colleagues. Here are seven things you need to say to wow your company right before you leave.
1. “Thank you.”
Whether you loved or hated your experience with your internship, be sure to thank your managers and colleagues. There is a lot of work that goes into training and supervising an intern. And although you’ve brought value to the company, the company has also devoted resources to you. Be sure to acknowledge the time, effort, and energy given to you, and let the employer know you appreciate it.
2. “What could I have done better?”
Take some time to debrief. Ask flat out if there are areas where you could improve. Though constructive criticism can be difficult to hear, being receptive to it is a crucial part of being a capable professional. A summer internship is practice for your future career, so practice another part of work life and learn to confront your flaws. Trust me, your future working self will thank you.
3. “What did I do well?”
On the flip side of that, ask your supervisors what you did well. You’re not fishing for compliments. You’re seeking a realistic view of your existing strengths. It’s not always clear when you’ve done a good job. Sometimes navigating an internship can seem like feeling your way through the dark, so ask flat out what you did right. Many employers will tell you what went right without your having to ask. But if you have any lingering concerns, never hesitate to inquire.
4. “Are you willing to serve as a reference?”
Unless your internship secured you a position with the company after graduation, secure that reference. Never assume that someone is willing to serve as one. Always ask if you can list someone as a reference before you go ahead and add them to your resume. Better yet, secure an actual letter of recommendation by asking your supervisor to write one. It may feel awkward, but don’t fret. It’s not personal; it’s business.
5. “Let’s stay in touch.”
Exchange contact information. Let your supervisor and colleagues know you appreciated the value they brought to your education and career, and that you’d like to be of value to them in the future.
6. “Let’s schedule lunch.”
This may not work in every instance. But if you’ve had a good working relationship and are leaving on good terms, schedule an actual time to meet. It doesn’t have to be right away. It could be for a few months down the road. Either way, don’t just promise to stay in touch—make a plan for it.
7. “Feel free to reach out with new opportunities.”
If you really enjoyed your time with the company and hope to work for them again, let them know it. Plant a bug in their ear. Remind them to remember you. Be genuine, of course, and don’t hound the poor people. But don’t be afraid to let them know you are interested in a future there. Even if an opportunity does not open up with them, they may share outside opportunities with you or share your name with others in the field.
Be real. Be smart. Be professional. And no matter how you leave, leave on good terms.
Candace is a practicing attorney, working parents advocate, freelance writer, and proud mom. Her legal practice focuses on workers’ rights. She can be found writing about law, motherhood, and more on her blog as The Mom at Law.