May 15, 2015

The 12 Week Interview: How to impress your employer during the summer internship

Kate Banahan is associate director of career and employer development for Weatherhead's Career Management Office (CMO). Follow them on Twitter at @weatherheadcmo.

Finals are over and the first year has come to a close for the MBA Class of 2016. Many are about to embark upon a new chapter – the summer internship. The offer letter is only the beginning – this is your chance to dive into an industry or company you are curious about and be a sponge (without all of the germs, of course). Treat every day like it is an interview (although this time you can breathe a little easier) and find ways to grow professionally and impress your (potential) future employer.

Through talking with employers and sitting down with two second year MBAs (soon to be class of 2015!), Jose Diaz and Lilla Voros, I was able to combine perspectives on how to stand out this summer. Here’s what I found:

1. Get ahead of the curve
There are two ways of getting ahead of the curve. One is by doing plenty of research before starting the internship so you get a feel for the company and the industry. The other way is to start working on your final presentation from week one. Set clear goals for what your superiors expect at the end of the internship, and consistently ask for feedback along the way so you can tailor your deliverables and approach to meet (and exceed) the team’s expectations.

2. Wanna grab coffee?
During a summer internship it is easy to solely concentrate on your tasks at hand and not meet people from other areas or departments. Being proactive about expanding your network will allow you to bring different perspectives into your work and allow for greater exposure. So when the time comes at the end of the summer to evaluate performance and extend offers, your name will pop up at an organizational level and not just at a departmental level.

3. Speak up
Just because your title is ‘intern,’ do not be afraid to express your opinion and challenge what has always been done. You are bringing a fresh perspective, and, if delivered in the appropriate way, your employer will thank you for it.

4. Handle that first happy hour with class
Being part of the company though social events, volunteer work and company softball games is instrumental in making a well-rounded impression. Getting to know people outside of normal business hours builds a greater sense of trust with your colleagues and strengthens existing relationships. Just be careful when accepting ‘just one last beer’ and be sure to leave sensitive topics (politics, money, relationships, etc.) out of the conversation.

5. Dress for the occasion
Know the office dress code and be prepared with the appropriate attire before day one. No need to splurge on a whole new wardrobe, but just make sure you have the essentials. This is no time to try out the blazer with a feathered boa around the collar or the neon green converse shoes with your black banking suit. Keep it simple, clean and professional.

6. Stay in Touch
Whether you continue working at your internship over the course of the school year or not, be sure to exchange information with individuals who made an impact on your experience. Always be conscious of not only building your network, but keeping in touch. Let them know how the school year is going and where you end up working – you never know when your paths will cross again.

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