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What To Do When You Leave Your Internship . . .

By Francine Blume, PhD
Director of Experiential Education
American University,
Washington, DC

You’ve amazed, delighted and thrilled! You’ve saved a multi-million dollar account! You’ve prevented international incidents!

Or maybe you caused an international incident. Ooops.

Whether you’ve shined, maintained, or had challenges, there are things you need to have done before you walk out those internship doors for good.

Ask for feedback

Know what the organization is going to say about you, good and bad. Make sure you have at least one opportunity for an evaluation before you leave. Ask your supervisor about your strengths, areas where you grew, and areas that you should continue developing. Be open, don’t argue if you disagree. This isn’t the time. (If your supervisor has facts completely wrong, be very diplomatic about setting the record straight. Ideally, any conflicts would have already surfaced and been addressed.) Ask for examples if you aren’t clear what your supervisor means. Definitely thank your supervisor for the feedback, and if appropriate, ask if you can use him or her as a reference (see below).

Prepare for the next internship or job

Identify at least one person who would be willing to write you a letter of reference. Have it in your hand before you leave. Never give up your right to see what references say about you. (I had a friend that was using a reference repeatedly, but unbeknownst to him, the reference was very negative, and he had a terrible time getting jobs.) If you’d like to come back, either as an intern or an employee, express that. And if there won’t be openings, be sure to ask about other individuals and organizations with whom you may want to network. Ask about professional associations that you might want to join, and events that might be interesting. As soon as you can, update your resume to include this most recent internship.

Leave on the best of terms

You want them feeling great about you after you’ve left, and not grumbling because they’re cleaning up after you. Make sure all your work is done, or at least at a stage that can easily be handed off to someone else with clear instructions. Gather an informal portfolio of your work products, and make sure you have permission to use them. Thank everyone with whom you worked and interacted. Thank you notes on cards are always appreciated and stand out from emails. Keep in touch from time to time with an email, letting them know what you’re up to. This applies whether or not you had a positive experience, because you never know when and how you’ll run into these people again.

Spread the word!

If you had a great experience, tell your friends! Tell your department! Tell your Career Center. Make a video! Blog! If you wouldn’t recommend the site, definitely tell your school, but be discreet about putting anything negative in public forums with your name. Be as constructive and professional as you can. And, of course, rate your internship at InternshipRatings.com!

Then it’s on to the next adventure! Good luck!

5 Responses to “What To Do When You Leave Your Internship . . .”

  1. QG says on August 6th, 2008 @ 6:52 am

    It is very important to leave on good terms with your internship…especially if you want to use them later on as a reference for a future job opportunity…
    but sometimes you think your on good terms, and then they may refuse to give you a letter of recommendation for one reason or another, and its hard to leave on good terms.

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  4. nepgreemy says on November 18th, 2008 @ 12:05 am

    All things are difficult before they are easy :)

  5. Olechka-persik says on December 9th, 2008 @ 7:03 pm

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