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Beyond the Handshakes: How to make your Internship experience work for you after departing the workplace

Samuel Talbott
The University of Iowa
B.A. History, expected December 2009

One of the best parts of having an internship while still in college is the connections you make with people in the workplace and beyond. But, one of the most important steps to take after leaving your internship is to keep these relationships and your network strong—not the easiest task while managing an academic calendar and perhaps a part-time job.

The hard part was getting the internship that you did, but your work is not through. You spent the time at your workplace taking in everything you possibly can in meetings, over lunch or coffee, around the office, happy hour with co-workers, every chance you got to grow you took it.

As your time winds down at your internship start to think about what you plan on doing down the road. Before the time for you to leave work arrives, make sure that you have contact information for your coworkers and supervisor and additionally for people you met while interning—believe it or not some of the best connections I made at my summer internship were formed in the elevator from our lobby to the office. Write thank you notes to all of the people in the office who had a part in shaping your experience. Not only will they be touched by your polite gesture but it also gives them another reason to remember you 6 months down the road if they can look at your note and recall the hard work you did.

It is also a great idea to give people your personal contact information as it is likely that you wont have access to work email when you return to school. This can be done in several ways. I am a big fan of personal business cards as they too leave a great impression and its nice way to keep track of people’s information. If you haven’t handed out business cards during your internship, no need to worry (but keep it in mind in the future), just keep a list of people’s contact email’s or phone number. After departing from your internship, keep in email contact with people you met during your stint. Build upon that first handshake a relationship that can work to your benefit as you enter the job market. Also be aware that many people may not remember you off hand so some foundational sentences are always good when starting correspondence:

“Dear Mr. X
You may not remember me but we met while I was an intern at XYZ and I wanted to write to say that I enjoyed working with you. As a student at Univ. Anywere I have been really interested in your line of work and was wondering if you might be willing to speak briefly to get any insight or advice you may have. I hope this finds you well.

Stay in touch with people who’s work interests you or who’s personal experience motivates you in some way. Take advantage of the web 2.0 world in which we live and once you have a comfortable relationship with them, try to connect on LinkedIn or Facebook (are your pictures job search appropriate?), or follow them on Twitter.
Most importantly, be sincere in your correspondence, don’t send an email every couple of months to say ‘hi’ if you don’t have a genuine connection, as that could sour the relationship. Just remember that the bridges you build and friends you make as you expand your network are only as strong as the effort you wish to put into them and the more time you take to foster relationships the more likely they are to help you out in the long run.

Sam Talbott is a senior at the University of Iowa from Santa Barbara, California pursuing a BA in history. He was named one of the American Express Foundation’s Nonprofit Leaders of America while interning at the Pan American Health and Education Foundation in Washington, DC in the summer of 2009. After graduating a semester early in December he hopes to work in development for higher education.

One Response to “Beyond the Handshakes: How to make your Internship experience work for you after departing the workplace”

  1. InternCircle says on December 22nd, 2009 @ 9:11 am

    Great posting! You have provided a lot of useful information. You should also check out the site which seems to be very helpful as well.

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