You've applied, aced the interview, worked your tail off and your internship is coming to an end. Congrats! So, now what? Whether you're heading back to school or are still waiting for a job offer, here a few tips to make sure your coworkers won't forget you.
1) Ask people of of interest to chat.
Chances are your internship may not be your dream job, but someone in the office could have something pretty close to that dream paired with a lengthy resume chock -full of wisdom and advice. If you are not sure who to speak to, tell your manager what you'd like to do in the future and ask if they know of anyone who could give you some advice. Another option is asking HR or searching through the company network. After you've narrowed down who you'd like to speak to, if you can, approach them and introduce yourself as student who'd like to hear their career story. If you can't introduce yourself in person (or are too shy), send an email with a similar introduction. Explain who you are (year, school, major), what your internship was and what careers you're interested in. You can grab coffee, lunch or even just spend an hour in a conference room. Do your research before hand. Make sure you know a little bit about them so you can ask relevant questions, but remember this isn't an interrogation, it's a conversation. Be open to learning all that you can.
2) Have an exit interview.
If your company hasn't already planned one, set up an exit interview with your boss to go over your performance. Not only will this give you candid and constructive criticism, it will show your boss that you care about your work and value your reputation. If you really enjoyed your internship, this would be a good time to ask about your future with the company and how you can return.
3) Send handwritten thank-you cards.
In an era of ever-changing technology and notification icons, there is something very touching and thoughtful about a handwritten card. Be sure to send one to your boss/team, HR and anyone who took extra time to help you and make your experience a good one. This a cheap and simple way to express your gratitude (and most interns won't think to do it or just forget). Another fun and (free) idea is to make a thank-you video. Like this one, I made for my team at BBC Worldwide America.
Pro tip: Write the cards before you go and put them in their respective mailboxes on your last day. This way, you don't have to worry about mailing them later.
3) Check in (at least three times per year).
If you don't already have a LinkedIn (seriously?) get one ASAP. People lose business cards, phone numbers change and suddenly you are left with zero contacts. LinkedIn, a sort of "Facebook" for professionals, consolidates your network into one place. How many times have you said "I'll keep in touch" and never followed through? Making connections is one task and maintaining them is another. This is not your middle school yearbook so be professional and keep your word. An easy timeline to follow is once per semester. Fall, spring and summer. You don't want to seem too bothersome ("Hey, I graduate in two months and still don't have a job lined up") but you also don't want to fall off the radar. Make sure you contact someone for a good reason. You can send any recent (and relevant) work you've done or your updated resume for critique. If that seems too formal, send an article you thought they'd like or even mention something about the company they work for. Something along the lines of "I noticed (insert company) changed this feature" or "Here is a suggestion I have for the report that was just published." That will show that you care about the company and are knowledgeable of what is going on with your potential employer.
Pro tip: Use LinkedIn to follow any recent job changes or moves. If you have a good relationship with your contact, reach out, explain your skill set and ask if they know anyone who is hiring. If you're in the same city, don't be afraid to meet in person.
5) Most importantly, remember that companies don't hire people. People do.
Be kind and courteous. Honestly, just be a decent person. If people are giving up their time to help you they will remember if you were rude, late or only seem like you wanted to get a job out of them. I repeat, they will remember and probably warn others about you. Even though your end goal is to advance your career, the sole purpose of networking is not to "climb the ladder." Take your time to get to know people. Share ideas and improve the world around you. You never know who will end up where, so don't burn bridges before you even build them.
Your career and professional reputation are just beginning. Stick to these key principles and you will have a solid network in no time. Happy interning!