Tips to Capitalize on a Summer Internship

UC Davis students interacting with an alumna at a career fair

By Robin Reshwan

Summer internships are excellent opportunities for college students to acquire valuable skills, collaborate with experienced professionals and expand their network. With summer winding down and students returning to campus, it is an ideal time for interns to take a few extra steps to capitalize on their work experience. Here are two impactful things your student should do at the end of an internship.

First, determine who can be a business reference (and what they will say). If your student is confident in his performance, he should ask at least two managers if they would be willing to be a reference and what their preferred method of contact is for future requests. If he is lucky enough to have multiple choices for references, he should look for people with good tenure and the highest-level title who can still speak personally about him.

If your student was unsure of his performance, this is a little trickier. He should still ask a couple of managers or more senior colleagues if they can be a reference. He may also want to ask them what they would recommend that he continue to work on for future career success. A potential reference who gives a long list of ways to improve is probably not someone who will sing your praises on a reference call. A manager who gladly says she will help you and gives you only one or two pointers might be a safer bet. If someone goes into an explanation regarding the company's policy prohibiting references or how difficult it is to get in touch with them, that is a clear sign that this person is not going to be a good reference. It may sound obvious but remind your student to not give out the name of a reference unless he knows that she will say good-to-great things. It does not pay to gamble with the choice of references.

Additionally, your student should update his resume and LinkedIn now. Before he leaves work or shortly thereafter is the best time because the responsibilities and impact are fresh. Additionally, he can ask current work connections if they would be willing to give him feedback on his depiction of the internship before he adds it to his resume and LinkedIn profile. Often, interns will just list their job description as the update. It is highly preferable to prioritize the tasks that are most professionally relevant and accomplishments that are most valuable. Select concise but action-oriented wording to really improve the messaging. Asking his work colleagues for their advice regarding his updates is a high-impact way to remind them of accomplishments and to ensure he has created a compelling resume or employment summary.

Hopefully, your student’s summer internship was a rewarding and educational experience. To fully leverage the power of an internship, encourage him to set up business references and make updates to him resume and LinkedIn profile while everything is still in the front of his mind. With these two steps, he will be ready to go for fall career fairs and subsequent interviews on campus without the last-minute scramble to be prepared.