When it comes to internships, the purpose is to not only get real-world experience in your desired field, but also to learn how to be on a team and work with others, how to be managed, and most of all, what professionalism looks and feels like. Whether your internship was not what you expected, or was the most rewarding and valuable learning experience, how to close out your time is another stepping stone to becoming a well-rounded, valuable and hireable professional. Here are a few must-dos when you're wrapping up your internship.
Tie up loose ends.
In other words: Don’t leave your old company hanging with projects and agenda items. Finish up what you can, mark or note where you left off, and type up a status report on where all your projects currently are and probable next steps. Your supervisor may have been actively involved in your work during your internship or left you to your own devices. Either way, sharing the intel (and this includes passwords, file locations, important communications, client relations tidbits, etc.) demonstrates your organization and team player attitude.
Ask for feedback.
Asking for an exit interview will help you learn your strengths and areas of improvement, and provide some valuable context to the experience you just had. Also, from an HR POV, it shows that you are dedicated to improving your employee capital and are serious about improving your company’s experience and your own informal education.
Give honest yet constructive feedback.
Perhaps you felt a few steps in the onboarding process were confusing, or that interns had little direction. Perhaps you had hoped there would be a different way to communicate with other departments or hoped to see how programs were developed. All of it is helpful—if delivered properly and politely. Letting the HR department know of small things that could make a big difference would be helpful to their future internship program. Present the information graciously and without judgment, but framed as areas of improvement is not only helpful to the company, but good practice for you for learning to communicate constructive criticism in the future.
But what if….
...you hated your internship and are counting the days until you can walk out for good? That is unfortunate, but a good exercise for you personally would be to reflect on what went wrong and what steps you took—or could have taken—to help solve the problem before this point. Sharing that with HR or the internship coordinator in a professional manner is still valuable because an internship is always a learning opportunity for both the company and the intern. It takes both parties to make it work.
Ask for references.
The assumption is that in your tenure as an intern, you took advantage of the opportunity to absorb as much as you could from those with more experience. This would be a good time to let them know what you learned, and to ask if they would be interested in being a reference for you. Be sure to look beyond the CEO. An ideal reference would be from your supervisor or manager, the highest ranking person you actually know in the company, but also from other levels, such as the HR manager, the office coordinator, or the internship coordinator. A glowing review from company infrastructure could hold more weight than a generic letter from the CEO, who doesn’t know your work personally.
Leave on a high note and with a good impression.
Every office environment has their own set of rules and decorum that you hopefully learned during your internship. Your last day is not the day to flaunt them. Don’t cook fish in the community microwave (really, ever…) on your last day, or leave your desk area a mess. Talk to HR and your supervisor for what you can do for them to help transition the next intern, or to return your tools and hardware to a workable state. Give your space a quick cleaning, and before walking out one last time, make sure to give genuine goodbyes (even better: thank you notes!) to the people who have helped you throughout your time in your internship. Showing that you’re professional and courteous as well as friendly and cooperative is a lasting impression that will get remembered whenever a position opens up (within the company, or for individuals).
The bottom line:
If you’ve enjoyed your time, felt you learned a lot, and will value your experience, let all interested parties—and their supervisors, if applicable—know. A professional and courteous team spirit always gets remembered.
Want more tips for killing it at your internship? Learn how you can make a strong impression.