13 Ways To Make The Most Of Your Summer Internship

Photographed by Nicolas Bloise.
The question of whether to apply for and take on an internship can be difficult. As publicist Kima Jones told Refinery29, not everyone can afford to enter a temporary, often low-paying (or completely unpaid) job program. And, as author Neil Howe puts it, not all internships give participants real options for advancement.
"In 2013," Howe wrote, "NACE [the National Association of Colleges and Employers], reported that only 63 percent of graduating students who had held paid internships received a job offer by graduation. As for unpaid internships, students who have them are today hardly more likely to get a job offer (37 percent) than those who have no internship at all (35 percent)."
Even so, internships continue to be a huge point of optimism among those who take on these roles. For example, in one Money Diaries series, several women chronicled their spending habits for a week during their internship programs. One person had taken on an unpaid internship (while working a handful of other jobs) to fulfill a requirement for her graduate program. Another, an undergrad balanced the tail end of her course load while working. And, overall, all of the interns were doing their best to figure out how to network as effectively as possible in the time they had.
Ahead, several successful women share advice on how to make the most out of an internship program — from communicating with managers to getting your confidence up.
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Photo courtesy of Lisa Tanner

Kelly Hoey, Investor & Author, Build Your Dream Network

"Close the loop."

"If you landed your internship through a personal connection, make sure you close the loop with that person! No one who makes a job introduction wants to learn what happened with the interview thirdhand.

Don't stop communicating there! Keep them informed as your internship progresses, as this increases the likelihood that they'll want to help you again in the future."
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Think before you post.

Kelly Hoey, Investor & Author, Build Your Dream Network

"Polish up your social media profiles especially on platforms such as LinkedIn. The eyes and ears of your work colleagues will be on you in the office and likely online, too. Think before you post and [consider] which platform is best for building a professional rapport with work connections.

"I previously worked as the manager of professional development at a global law firm, and one of the tasks I assigned a summer intern was reviewing the social profiles and online presence of new and summer attorneys. Why? I wanted to be aware of any issues before the partners (or the legal media), and then address it before the new attorney was embarrassed or had their career derailed."
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Focus on what you can control.

Kelly Hoey, Investor & Author, Build Your Dream Network

"Your internship may ultimately lead to a permanent job offer but regardless, it initiates relationships that will shape your career possibilities. Don't come into an internship worrying about whether or not you'll land a job. Instead, focus on what you can control: executing the projects you're assigned to well, learning as much as possible, and building strong professional relationships.

"In the summer of 2012, when I was the cofounder of a startup accelerator in New York City and responsible for day-to-day operations, I had an intern, Abby, who came to work with me that summer via the University of North Carolina — mostly through her own persistence. Abby was eager to learn and a true team-player, but more importantly, she stayed in touch when the summer ended. I'd get the occasional school update along with holiday cards and birthday messages, plus a few Facebook updates. When Abby was mulling job offers (to stay in Chapel Hill, return to New York, or move across the country), she sought my insight.

"After she accepted a role at Google, I sent email introductions to the handful of people I know at the company. They were people she may or may not have come across in her day-to-day duties, but [who might be] helpful if she needed insight on navigating the corporate landscape from a more senior Googler. This pattern of occasional communication continues to this day. Because of it, I can confidently provide Abby with a reference, introduction, or job lead, even though we have not worked side-by-side in nearly five years."
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Sima Sistani, COO & Cofounder of Houseparty

"Be in tune with the office dynamic."

"I've worked in different industries — finance, entertainment, media, and tech — but the best interns always have this in common: They take on tasks with enthusiasm and ask the right questions. This is easier to do when you pick the right internship. Start with something you're passionate about, not just something you think will look good on a resume.

"Also, remember: It isn't just about showing up early or staying late; it's about being thoughtful and in tune with the office dynamic."
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Photo courtesy of Orchard Mile.

Jennie Baik, Cofounder & CEO, Orchard Mile

"Think about the company's issues."

"It's paramount for new grads to show that beyond working long hours and being enthusiastic, they are actively thinking about the company's issues. At Orchard Mile, we recognize that great ideas and thinking can come from anywhere, no matter what your age or experience. But the delivery of that message to management needs to be concise, thoughtful, and humble — with a grasp of the whole picture and showing a willingness to learn."
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Photo courtesy of Denise Crew/Parachute.

Ariel Kaye, Founder & CEO, Parachute

"Make yourself a cheat sheet."

"I often see young or entry-level employees holding back because they’re too nervous or self-conscious to express their points of view. Startups are often a sink-or-swim environment and resources can be lean, so diving in with an eager-to-learn attitude is essential.

"My advice: Take notes. Ask for clarification. Make yourself a cheat sheet. Then review it! Enjoy the experience, absorb everything you can and assert yourself."
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Photo courtesy of Shaun Tiangsing.

Joy Chen, CEO, H2O+ Beauty

"Don't be afraid to speak up during your internship, with questions and opinions alike. Taking the initiative to clarify points of confusion can lead to better-informed opinions in the future, and your fresh perspective is helpful, even if your experience is not as broad as your colleagues'."
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Volunteer for tasks that are beyond your comfort zone.

Joy Chen, CEO, H2O+ Beauty

"Volunteer for tasks that are beyond your comfort zone to better understand where your strengths lie. At H2O+ Beauty, we have an internship program for young women at Girls Inc. of Alameda County, and we encourage every intern to get involved as much as possible. We find that when they stretch themselves and process what they're learning into thoughtful questions and input, they present their best work — and also get the most value from the experience."
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Follow up periodically after your internship.

Joy Chen, CEO, H2O+ Beauty

"Following up periodically after your internship — through email and in-person meetings — is the ideal way to stay in touch. Keep tabs on the organization via social media so that you have a natural conversation starter. Congratulate them on an exciting business update, for example.

"Also, by occasionally meeting with your internship coordinator in person, you'll show that you appreciate their mentorship, and will [also] have more leverage to ask for further help, like a referral, down the road."
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Photo courtesy of Follain.

Tara Foley, Founder & CEO, Follain

"Find an intersection of your genuine passion and a genuine need."

"Passion can carry you through a lot, and inspire you to push through obstacles and keep going. I've experienced some major pivots in my career. I moved from a background in public policy and then founded a non-toxic beauty retailer — but creating positive, impactful change through the work I do has always been at the core of these choices.

"Find an intersection of your genuine passion and a genuine need. It can be tricky to find work that is personally fulfilling beyond providing a paycheck, so sussing out an area that marries your talents with a real niche is key."
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Carolyn Thompson, Managing Principal, Merito Group

"Taking advantage of on-the-job networking opportunities."

"Assuming you're doing well in your internship and are exceeding expectations, keep in touch with the people you meet by connecting with them on LinkedIn. Before connecting, update your profile with your internship information.

"Invite people you would like to learn from to lunch so you can speak one-on-one and ask a few specific questions about their career paths. You might also ask them if it's okay for you to keep in touch after the internship ends.

"If a group of people is going to an industry networking event, ask if you can register and attend with them so you can observe how they interact with others and how they represent the company professionally outside the office."
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Ask for a one-on-one meeting about future opportunities.

"Most of the time, management will approach you about any full-time opportunities they’d like to bring to your attention, but you can raise the topic of full-time employment during a one-on-one time with your supervisor. Wait until the halfway point of your internship, and ask about what your supervisor’s feedback on your performance is and [any] future intentions they have regarding your role with the company. Be ready to accept whatever they say constructively."
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Take your position as seriously as you would if you were a full-time employee.

"Take your position as seriously as you would if you were a full-time employee. For example, if others are cutting out of the office early, you might not want to be a part of that group unless everyone is leaving to participate in a company sponsored event and you have been approved to participate."

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