by Mary Crane
In a few short weeks, most summer associates and interns will start to focus on completing work assignments and returning to school. If you’re among them, please do not make the mistake of slacking off now. To the extent you finish strong, you significantly increase the likelihood of gaining a coveted job offer.
Following are 10 things you should do as your summer work experience draws to a close:
- Complete all assignments
This should go without saying, and yet every September I hear stories about summer associates and interns who turned in their ID and key cards but failed to turn in final assignments.
As you approach your last weeks at work, complete every task that has been assigned to you. View these assignments as your opportunity to make a last, positive impression. Double-check for typos, misspellings, and punctuation errors. Requested “drafts” should be delivered in a “client ready” state.
- Transition work
Extenuating circumstances may keep you from completing some assignments. In these cases, make it easy for others to continue with and complete the project after you depart. Document the work that you’ve completed as well as the discrete tasks that remain outstanding. Provide contact information (names, phone numbers, and email addresses) of key people who have contributed to the project. Highlight critical deadlines.
- Request samples
Your summer work product belongs to your employer. Before you prepare copies to add to your portfolio, request permission. Once you receive it, and only after you receive it, make electronic or hard copies of the work you’ve completed. Keep in mind that after you depart it may be impossible to retrieve your work.
- Ask for feedback
With any luck, you received feedback throughout your summer work experience. If you have not, actively ask for it before you leave. Feedback, especially feedback that is critically constructive, gives you the opportunity to learn and grow.
- Ask for advice
Think about all of the people you’ve met during the summer. Identify two or three who made an impression upon you because of their knowledge or experience. Before your summer work experience ends, reach out to them and ask to schedule one more conversation. Use these meetings as an opportunity to explore career possibilities. Ask about traditional and nontraditional paths that you should consider.
- Thank everyone
Set aside some time for this. Think about every single person you interacted with over the course of your summer employment, from the people in recruiting who helped orient you to the senior players who assigned work to you. Then thank them via a brief, face-to-face conversation. (Please do not send an all-office thank-you email blast.) These conversations do not need to be lengthy, but they must communicate your genuine gratitude. Additionally, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by sending a handwritten thank-you note to any direct supervisor. However, please do not gift a supervisor.
- Don’t burn any bridges
Some summer experiences are not as pleasant or as productive as others. If your summer work experience did not turn out as well as you had hoped, suck it up and move on. Do not criticize your summer employer or anyone with whom you worked.
- Speak positively
Find positive things to say about your summer experience. I’m not suggesting that you lie. However, finding fault with employers, assignments, training programs, social events, and the like, position you as a whiner or complainer rather than as a future successful professional.
- Create a plan to reconnect
Some of the people with whom you met and worked during the summer should become members of your professional network. Don’t lose touch with these important people once you return to campus. Create a plan to reconnect. If your employer will visit campus during the fall, offer to be of assistance. Or consider inviting one of your new contacts to a campus event he or she would enjoy, for example, a football game or theater performance. Once the holiday season rolls around, don’t hesitate to send cards that include your handwritten best wishes.
- Update your résumé
The day your summer work experience ends, pull out your résumé and update it. Focus on the new skills and knowledge you acquired. Document how you contributed to or positively affected your employer.