How To Succeed In Your Summer InternshipJul 24, 2022
Bottom Line Up-Front: To succeed in your internship you need to do more than just a great project. The company is evaluating both your work and you as an individual, and whether you are a good fit for the company’s culture.
You can succeed in your internship by: Making sure you have a clear scope of work, being proactive, networking with your team and the company, and by gathering early feedback about your presentation.
You prepared for a long time, you aced your interviews and now… it’s day one of your new summer internship! But… getting an internship is just step one… now it’s time you do a great job to get that offer to return!
And if you don’t have an internship yet, don’t worry! I’ll share along the way a few resources for you. You are not alone in this quest!
Alright, let’s talk about things you can do to make sure you have a great internship and impress your team along the way 😉
🎯 Make sure your project has a clear scope
One the main reasons interns struggle during their internship is because there is no clear scope on their project. You will be at the company for only a few months and you need to make sure that you understand exactly what is being asked of you.
Don’t confuse it with being told how to execute. That will be on you.
Clear scope: In your first 1 or 2 meetings with your manager make sure you have an answer to these questions:
✅ Goal and Deliverable - What is the goal of your internship? Is the goal to deliver a market research analysis? a roadmap of the product? a working prototype? Make sure you understand what is it that you will be doing during the summer and what’s expected from you at the end of it.
💻 Format of your Deliverable - Is your manager, or the team, expecting that you deliver a presentation at the end? an Excel spreadsheet? a prototype (code) they can use later? Format is important and it’s something you want to know from the beginning.
🔎 Don’t blindside your manager with your project
During your internship, your manager is expecting you to be proactive and have self-initiative. However, that doesn’t mean you should disappear for a couple months and come back with your project completed… That’s a recipe for disaster.
Your manager is there to guide and help you. Here’s what you should do:
📆 Schedule weekly meetings - On your first meeting with your manager, ask them about setting up weekly meetings. Don’t assume that you will bother them with this because they are very busy. Most likely, they are already meeting with the rest of the team on a weekly basis.
✅ Prepare an agenda - Before each meeting, let your manager know what you want to discuss. Here are 2 items that you should always include in your agenda, besides anything else you’d like to include:
Status update - What did you accomplished the previous week? What will you accomplish on the current one?
Need help? - If you are blocked on something or struggling to connect with someone else, tell your manager about it.
HOWEVER, make sure that you try a few things yourself before asking your manager for help - Here’s an example of how you can have these conversations:
“In the last couple of days I’ve been trying to connect with ‘X’ and I know it’s important for our project. I’ve sent them a message and an email but I haven’t been able to communicate with them. Do you have any recommendations on what I should do next?” - This demonstrates that you exhausted the resources around you and you are asking for help instead of asking for instructions. BIG difference.
By connecting with your manager often, they will know about the progress in your project and will guide you on your final deliverable. They will share advice and also help you steer the direction of the project if things need to change (businesses change all the time, don’t worry too much if this happens to you!).
In every meeting, try to come prepared with ideas for next steps before asking “What should I do now?”. At the time of your final presentation or deliverable, your manager will know everything about your project and there won’t be any surprises!
👋 If you are not assigned one, find a buddy
I get it, you don’t want to go and ask your manager every single question that crosses your mind. Sometimes you just want to know about an internal website to setup your automatic payments or talk about cool perks that you can get by being an intern there, and it may feel awkward to keep bugging your manager with these questions.
In many cases, your manager or the company will assign you a buddy. They may or may not be part of the team and their goal is to help you during your internship by answering questions, connecting you with others in the company, sharing feedback on your project or even sending you the most useful websites in the company.
However, if you do not have a buddy here are a few things you can do:
💬 Ask your manager for one! - Ask your manager if they can help you find someone within the company that can help you with general questions about the company and the team, and who can maybe even help you connect with other interns.
🔎 Find your own Buddy! - If your manager doesn’t have anyone in mind to be your buddy, or if you don’t want to ask them for one, then network with people around you and find someone with whom you feel most comfortable asking any question. Once you find that person, ask them if you can setup regular weekly meetings as well. While you don’t need to officially call them a buddy, they can be your go-to person for any question.
🤔 What are the kind of questions you should ask to your buddy?
Ask about useful internal websites that you could use.
Ask them to help you connect with others in the company.
Ask for feedback and ideas for your project and final presentation or deliverable.
Ask them any questions you have about the company or what they have seen other interns, who have received a returning offer, do well!
🎶 Don’t Stop Believ… Networking 🎶
Networking during your internship is probably one of the most important things you have to do… besides working hard to actually get a returning offer…. seriously, don’t just spend all your time in ☕️ chats.
You want to make sure you meet as many people as possible during your internship, but why is this (networking) so important?
✅ You want to make sure your team knows you well - Your boss may ask the team about you and your work at the end of your internship. If you connected well with your team, you might even have some supporters at the end that will give great feedback about you to your manager.
✅ You never know what the future holds with these connections - Most likely, the people you’ll connect with during your internship will be at the company for quite some time, or at least in the industry. Maybe in the future they will be at your dream company 😉 - they might be the person you will be networking with to join them!
✅ You are also evaluating the company - During your internship you’ll get a glimpse of what it’s like to work at that company and networking with others is will give you different perspectives of how others perceive the company. In the end, when you receive your offer to return, you want to have solid reasons to why or why not you want to come back.
It doesn’t matter how cool your upcoming project is going to be or how well-known is the name of the company; if the culture is not something you enjoy, the happiness and excitement of this new job is not going to last long.
How do you network with others during your internship?
🎯 Start with the people around you: your team - Setup at least one ☕️ chat with each member of your group - with those that you feel you have a stronger connections, try to setup weekly meetings.
🎓 Network with other interns! - You want to have a support network of others who are going through the same process. There’s also no better way to know about other parts of the company during your internship than through other interns! They can connect you with their team or their manager.
👋 Meet the rest of the company - Once you meet with most of your team, start expanding your network. Ask your team or your manager for introductions to people in other teams.
Here’s an email template that you can use:
My name is _______ and I’m a new intern working with ___(Manager’s name)___ on ___(project)___.
I’m trying to learn more about the company, and I would love to learn from your experience and get to know what you are working on!
Would it be ok if I schedule a 1:1 30 min coffee-chat with you? I can take a look at your calendar and setup a call, but if you have a preference on day and time, please let me know.
Thank you and I’m looking forward to learning more from you!
🥱 Make your final presentation the most boring presentation they’ve seen…
Before you think I went crazy with the title here, bare with me for a moment…
Of course you want to WOW your team and your manager so let me explain what I mean with the most boring presentation they’ve seen:
🤝 Make sure your team sees a draft of your final presentation - At the time of your final presentation you want to make sure that your manager and your team has seen at least a draft of your presentation and content. There should not be any surprises to your manager about your content.
💬 Practice. Practice. Practice. - Practice your presentation with your buddy or other members of your team a few times.
⏱ Time yourself for a perfect presentation - I can’t stress enough the importance of time. If you have 30 minutes to present, then practice until you deliver all your content under the time limit - make sure you leave enough time for Q&A.
🗣 Present your draft at least once to your manager’s manager - Try to present at least once (a draft), half-way through your internship, to your skip level (your manager’s manager). You want to make sure that they are aligned with your project and the direction of it. Ask your manager for help with this presentation.
What’s the outcome of doing all of this? Everyone will know the content of your presentation and most of their questions would’ve already been addressed.
By the time you deliver your final presentation (or deliverable), most of the people would’ve already seen your presentation. Ideally, you will have addressed all the concerns and questions from your team, and more importantly from your manager and those above them in the organization. Combine all this advice with a great final presentation and you will impress your team and get that offer to come back 😉.
📑 A free side project you can do that will earn you bonus points with your manager!
When you start your internship, you will receive (hopefully) a lot of resources that will be helpful: Internal websites, documents, a list of people to meet… And throughout your internship, you will keep adding to this list.
Most of us end up using these resources to ramp up and then we forget about most of them to focus all our energy into our project and final deliverable.
Here’s what you can do to transform this collection of resources into a side project that will require minimum effort from you and will impress your manager:
✅ Document everything - Add all the resources you received and the ones you found in a document, at this moment, it doesn’t matter where but make sure you put them somewhere.
💬 Contact list - Save the contact information of all of those that you meet in a simple table in excel or Google sheets. Add their Name, email or alias, title and team they are working on.
📆 Weekly summary - Every week write a summary of what was your focus for that week. At the end, you’ll have a good weekly internship to-do list.
💎 Other resources - Whatever else you receive during your internship that was useful to you, just keep adding to the list.
As you approach the end of your internship, take all the information, links and contacts, and setup a wiki page or an internal website with all the information - share it with your manager and your team!
With minimum effort, you have now completed a full side project that your manager will use to onboard new interns and possibly new employees in the future. This work will be a an extra bonus to show your proactivity, time management and organization.
Succeeding in your internship and getting an offer to return takes more than just doing a good job on your project. A few you can do to succeed:
Make sure you have a clear scope on your project.
Meet often with your manager and show your proactivity.
Find a buddy if you are not assigned one.
Network with as many as you can in the company.
Make sure everyone knows the content of your final presentation before it’s due.
Document all your experience and create an onboarding guide for new interns!
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