Make the Most Out of Your Summer Career Experience

By: Kirsi

Summer Career Exp

Photo source: Unsplash | Vladimir Kudinov

From internship to summer job to Co-Op there are ways you can get more out of your experience with just a little extra effort.

Do Research

Before diving into your summer career opportunity it is wise to do some research on the company you will be working with an the position. For example, if you scored a position as a Design Intern at the new maurices headquarters downtown read into what some of maurices’ corporate goals and what a designer does. Using LinkedIn, you can connect with past and current employees with the same position. While guided imagery may seems cheesy simply visualizing yourself working in your new position can help get your prepared.

Prior to starting a internship or Co-Op it is common to get in touch with your designated mentor (if you have one). You can talk about what projects you will be working on over the summer and how you can be ready the first day. Your mentor may have suggestions on reading, training, or project-prep you can do ahead of time. If you are not assigned a mentor before your first day find one once you start! Mentors can give you feedback on your work, answer questions you may have about professionalism, and introduce you to other employees working on similar things.

mission_control_work

Sitting with PLUTO (Plug-in Port Utilization Officer) in Mission Control logging Extra Vehicular Activity tasks. Photo by NASA.

Set Goals

There are goals to be reached beyond getting discipline related experience and a project done over the summer.

Likely you are surrounded by professionals working on things related to what you are interested in for a future career. Make it a goal to interview folks around the organization. Ask about how they got started, why they are interested in their work, and a rewarding challenge they have tackled in their career. Don’t be afraid to ask management about their work or to shadow them for a day. While Co-Oping at NASA Johnson Space Center’s Mission Control I was challenged to meet and shadow with four or more people in Mission Operations. I learned about what it takes to send a device to space, watched astronauts receive training, and even sat in Mission Control.

end_of_summer_2013_presentation

Uh oh, I was wearing khakis during an exit presentation! I didn’t know better back then.
Giving an exit pitch about work on a Solar Array Regulator circuit at NASA Glenn Research Center Summer 2013.

Another good goal is to make a meaningful contribution to the organization and share it with your mentors. The project or job pre-established before your first day may already contribute to the organization meaningfully. If you feel your first assigned task is monotonous it may simply be a test of trust, your work ethic, and if you can keep a positive attitude. It’s your job to communicate either through an exit pitch or presentation established by you how your work has been meaningful. A past Google Intern, Jon Youshaei, wrote a TIME article “10 Ways to Maximize Your Summer Internship” listing unique ways to connect with management. Youshaei suggests sending weekly recap emails to your manager, asking senior executives about having a “roundtable chat” or “lunch and learn”, and pitching new project ideas.

IMG_2563

Journal entries from my internship experiences.

Keep a blog or journal about your career experience! Never thought you would go back to your diary writing days? Actually, writing about your work day is a good way to digest everything that has happened, be thankful about all the good, and ruminate about ways you can improve. I have kept written journals and an online blog accounting internship, Co-Op, and tech related experiences. It was really helpful to look back to what I worked on when putting together my exit presentation!

Make it a goal to grow during your experience. Ask for and be accepting of feedback. Ask for feedback weekly or as you get things accomplished. Then apply the feedback in visible ways. Ways you can ask for feedback include; “How are ways I can improve my XXXX project?”, “How are ways I can become more professional?, or simply “How do you think I am doing?” Your organization may already have a student performance evaluation system where your work is reviewed throughout the summer.

dress_well

Photo source Olu Eletu | Unsplash

Establish Good Habits

A summer career opportunity is much like a summer long interview for a possible full time position therefore creating good habits is key to a good impression. CNBC shared “10 tips for your summer internship” that suggested interns find ways to go above and beyond, honor your word and your work, and maintain a strong work ethic. Below are some additional goals to consider.

  • Dress For Success – In the world of engineering I see a lot of folks in khakis. While that is accepted in the work place I make it my goal to dress as nice as my team lead or manager. How you dress shows how serious you are about your work. Be careful to dress work appropriate, like closed toed shoes in a lab or layers if the temperature fluctuates. This doesn’t mean that a tux or pearls is necessary but looking sharp does not hurt.
  • Arrive Punctually – Be on time! Think you can sneak in at 8:10 am? Nope, people are watching and judging. Consistently arriving on time, dressed, fed, and ready to go at the start of your work day or even a few minutes early shows that you are prepared for the work day. Carrying this habit for on time arrival at meetings is key too.
  • Be Thankful – Your level of professionalism can be measured in your respect for others and how you show thanks. If a mentor or peer has helped you out send a quick thanks email. At the end of your summer experience leaving a hand written thank you can mean a lot.

Good luck your summer career experience, learn lots and have fun!

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Read Kirsi’s other posts

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