One of my favorite professors in college was Raymond Obstfeld. He was a writer by day and a creative writing professor by night. What he taught us had clout because his advice was tried and true. He was in the biz.
He shared a ton of quotable advice with us. But, what stuck out the most was what he did upon finding out his first novel would be published.
He was in his early 20s working on a novel when the phone rang. The novel he submitted to a publishing house was going to be published. He was shocked. And ecstatic.
What did you do next? we asked him.
“I hung up the phone, walked back to my desk, and continued writing.”
We lost it. What was he thinking? Why didn’t he call up his buddies and celebrate? Why didn’t he immediately pick up the phone and call everyone in his address book (the 1970s version of a Facebook announcement).
Because, he said, I’m a writer. Writers write. One manuscript was to be published. That’s great. But, that’s not enough if I want a career in writing. I need to write every day, despite anything else.
Professor Obstfeld didn’t allow himself to become a one-hit-wonder. And neither should you. Your summer internship is either over or will be shortly. It’s not time to celebrate. It’s time to walk back to your desk and continue working.
Now that your summer internship is over, here’s what you need to do next:
1. Ask for a reverse exit interview.
Most employers will conduct an exit interview when an employee departs. The purpose is to obtain information from the employee that the employer can use to improve things.
Flip things around. Ask your intern supervisor or mentor if you can meet one-on-one for an exit interview. After a date and time has been scheduled, email a list of exit interview questions you’d like to discuss during the interview (so your supervisor can come prepared). Ask her to divulge your weaknesses, strengths, how she felt about working with you in general. Take notes during the meeting.
Here are some sample questions to ask. It’s important to be as specific as possible to get tangible feedback. Avoid asking yes or no (dead-end) questions.
- If you had to give me constructive feedback on one quality of mine, what would it be and why?
- What can you say about my communications and relations between other departments and with other co-workers?
- What was your favorite experience working with me?
- What was your lease favorite experience working with me?
- If you could change anything about how I operate as an intern/employee, what would it be?
You can use this information as an opportunity to improve your work performance and sharpen your strengths. This info is also great to use on your next cover letter.
2. Keep in touch with the connections you just made at your internship.
By far the best way to do this is with LinkedIn. Did you know nearly half of college students admit they don’t use LinkedIn? Huge mistake. LinkedIn strengthens and extends your existing network of trusted contacts. Their motto is, quite simply, “Connect. Find. Be found.”
When it comes to LinkedIn, think of your Facebook feed, but your friends share relevant career advice, resources, and job updates instead of selfies.
Your LinkedIn connection’s career updates appear on your newsfeed. You can see if a friend works where you want to work, ask your friend to submit your resume to the HR manager, and boom: you just landed your next internship.
College students should create a LinkedIn account as early as freshman year.
3. Connect with alumni from your school.
The best way to do this is to visit the career center at your school.
During an interview with Forbes, Dan Schawbel, the Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm, stated that “the most valuable thing students can get from school career services is connections to alumni in their desired line of work”
I was shocked when I discovered how willing alumni are to help students from their alma mater. During my last year at UC Irvine I attended a Creative Industry career panel. The Entertainment Manager at Disney was one of the panelists. I didn’t get an opportunity to speak to her directly during the panel, so I reached out to her on LinkedIn. She not only accepted my connection request, but gave me excellent career advice through several back-and-forth direct messages.
4. Start applying for new internships.
On average, students only apply to about four or five jobs at a time. That’s not enough. Up your chances of landing an internship every single summer while in college by applying to as many internships as possible. With career networks like AfterCollege, it’s really easy to binge-apply.
The competition is getting fiercer. An internship one summer while in college won’t cut it any longer. Get several.
Who’s your biggest inspiration when it comes to your career? How can you use your mentor’s success story to inspire your own success?
written by Cari Stark
Cari Stark graduated from University of California, Irvine in 2013 as an English major. She is now the Marketing Manager for College Works Painting, a college internship designed to give students the opportunity to build a competitive resume to help them land their dream job when they graduate. College Works Painting offers a free career success toolkit for advice from recent grads who landed jobs at Google, ESPN, Amazon and many other great companies.