I loved being a college intern so much that I had four internships in college. My first internship came fall of my sophomore year of college. I was a fundraising/special events intern for Providence O’Trees at Providence Mount St. Vincent in West Seattle. During that internship, I had joined INROADS, an organization dedicated to helping underprivileged youth and minority students find internships and jobs. INROADS taught me how to interview, fix my resume, dress for success and more.
That fall and during my first internship, I landed my summer internship with the Boeing Company – in the supplier management warranty team. After my first summer at Boeing, I decided to come back for a second summer internship in fleet services/business operations. Then during my senior year of college, I completed a sales internship with PepsiCo to complete my sales certificate.
Doing different internships at different companies and industries helped prepare me for the corporate/real world as well as my creative endeavors. I don’t think I would be in the position in both my professional and creative careers I’m in today, if I hadn’t gone through my internship experiences.
So today I wanted to share:
6 tips to maximize your internship experience this summer.
Internship Tips #1 – Set Goals
Come into the internship with a few set goals. I came into my first internship at Boeing with the goal to get an idea of what it’s like to work in a large, corporate environment. My goal that summer was to determine whether or not I wanted to work in the non-profit sector like I had in my previous internship or work in large corporations like Boeing.
Advice: Come into your experience with some of these questions to ask yourself:
- Can I work in this industry after graduation?
- Do I like this work function? (example: finance, sales, engineering, etc.)
- Do I enjoy what I’m doing? Or is there a role on my team that I could see myself doing one day?
Internship Tips #2 – Embrace the entire internship experience
As a Boeing intern, I got to go to see factory tours, attend executive breakfasts/round table events, and hang out with the other interns at Mariners or Sounders games. I encourage you to embrace the internship experience your company is providing you. Any chance to learn about your company beyond your team, organization or function will help you build a broader understanding of what your company does. It will also give you perspective to where your team fits within the organization.
Internship Tips #3 – Build your network
By attending the internship events, meeting all the people on your team, scheduling informational interviews and meeting your leadership at all levels, you’ll learn how to build your network.
Why it’s important to network:
Believe or not, a lot of navigating your life and career is not about what you know, it’s who you know. Yes you still have to have to be competent and qualified enough (experience + education) for specific roles. However, finding your next job is a lot easier when you have someone advocating for you on the other side of the hiring committee.
I realized how important my network was 6-9 months after I had graduated from college and realized I wanted to go back to the Boeing Company. I immediately emailed the internship recruiters I had worked with as well as previous managers and mentors. You can read about that entire experience in this previous blog post.
Internship tips #4 – Schedule those informational interviews
Believe or not, I conducted over 60+ informational interviews over the course of my two summer internships at Boeing. I talked and networked with so many people because two goals I had coming into my internships were:
- “Can I find a job out there that I would love to do for the Boeing Company?”
- “Is the Boeing Company where I want to work after graduation?”
Since I had majored in sales and marketing, I learned that it was challenging to get on that side of the Boeing Company. Most people working in sales and marketing either had 10+ years of experience, came from engineering backgrounds, or had graduate degrees. I wouldn’t have known this if I hadn’t taken the time to schedule informational interviews with salesman (the actually people selling to Alaska Airlines or American Airlines), sales support teams, and even Boeing’s digital media team.
Through informational interviews I learned that Boeing had an airshow planning team that put on the annual global airshows held in France, Dubai, and other various cities around the world. If I stick around in aerospace, I would love to be a part of the airplane show planning team one day! I also found my mentor through my informational interviews. I met her as an intern and years later I’m still meeting with her once a month and asking her questions on how to navigate my career.
Here’s how to /why you should schedule informational interviews.
My internship advice:
Ask your manager at the start of your internship if you can/would like to conduct informational interview throughout your summer. Sometimes internship programs tell the hosting managers to allow interns to explore the company though informational interviews, and others leave it to the managers’ discretion. I would articulate it to your manager that informational interviews will help you determine if this company is going to be the right fit after college graduation and help you build a better understanding of the company.
Internship Tips #5 – Aim to be a high performer
When you come into your summer college internship, your manager, team, or lead will probably provide what you’re supposed to accomplish at the end of the summer. Or they may not – and let you decide how you’re going to add value to the team. Whichever way your team decides to give you a statement of work, aim to be a top performer.
Here’s why you should just come into that internship ready to knock it out of the park:
if you’re about to enter your senior year of college, you’re probably going to look for a job before you graduate. If you’re about to enter your junior year, you might be looking for another summer internship. Your manager/team will be evaluating you throughout the summer and at the end of internship – at Boeing we call them performance evaluations. You’ll be given ratings and your company may or may not decide to extend you a full time offer (if they have the budget) or a second internship.
Even if you decide the company and the internship experience wasn’t a good fit for you, being a top performer will help you build a positive relationship with your manager who may still serve as a great reference.
Internship Tips #6 – Be Professional
Every workplace has a different set expectations of work place behaviors. Some companies might expect you to come in business casual everyday (slacks, blouse and a cardigan), while other companies might bring wine and beer in the office on Fridays. Depending on the size, industry, and culture, companies have a range for formal and informal expectations. I’d recommend paying attention to how your team engages with your manager, leadership teams, vendors, etc. to see how formal/informal the interactions are within the workplace.
My thoughts on professionalism:
As a young professional and formal college intern, being professional to me also means not using slang in every day conversations and email (unless my team is comfortable with that). Being professional also means being responsive – in my office it’s appropriate to respond within 24 hours on emails. And being professional means being reliable – so if you’re sick and won’t be coming to work, you send your manager an email in the morning. You can’t skip a work day (unless you have scheduled vacation or you’re using sick leave) like you can skip class. People are typically relying on you to help complete tasks or projects.
There you have it friends! I hope you take these six internship tips to take with you this summer!
What are some of your internship tips for college students? What have been your favorite internships you’ve done?
Photos: Holly Phan