The Interrogative Intern
And ‘Can you sign this form for my college credit?’ isn’t one of them.
By Jasmin Suknanan, Stony Brook University
Your days of calling yourself an intern are officially over.
Whether you were filing away office documents, managing company accounts or creating a few bylines, you’re walking away with a new network of connections and new skills that you can take back to college. However, the biggest mistake you could make is simply walking out of the office without looking back.
It’s important to show your boss that the position was more than just college credit or another line on your resume. If he or she liked your attitude and passion enough, they could keep you in mind for a full-time job after you graduate.
You can also learn a lot from taking the time to reflect on your experience and ask questions before you return the company laptop, hand over your key card and walk out the door. Here are five questions to ask your boss after you complete your internship.
1. Can we discuss my growth on the team?
Your college career center can probably tell you ad nauseam about how much employers love when you ask for feedback. Asking about your progress shows that you truly care about how you’ve contributed to the team, but you can also receive invaluable feedback about what you’ve mastered and what you still need to work on.
It may be best to shoot your boss an email asking for feedback a few days before you officially leave. That way, you’ll have time to work on any weak spots before your next position with another employer or before returning to the team.
2. Are there any opportunities to work with your company in the future?
If you enjoyed your experience at the company you worked for, you may want to keep them in mind when looking for a position next summer. Maybe next year, instead of being an intern, you can get a position with a little more authority. Maybe the company also offers short-term projects or fellowships that you can take on in the future. Make sure you get any details before you leave.
Tell your boss that you would love to stay updated on anything that pops up in the future. If they enjoyed having you, you’ll be the first to know about any other positions they’re looking to fill. This is an easy way to network before you leave the office; a contact is only a contact if you actually stay in touch.
3. Can I leave my business card with you?
This is the part where you get to be extra professional and impressive. It’s never too early to create a set of business cards for yourself, especially since buying a set is relatively cheap. If you don’t have business cards, just ask if you can write their email down. The point of this is to exchange personal contact information with your boss. Anyone can search your boss’s name in Google and find a generic company email address, but this is your chance to get a personal email that you can use for quick responses to any future questions you might have.
Networking starts when you walk into the office, and it continues when you walk out of it. After you get a personal email, be sure to actually keep in touch. I love sending my former bosses cards during the holiday season just to let them know that I remember all that they taught me and that I’m thinking about them.
4. What skills do you think will be important in the industry a few years from now?
I don’t know any college students who don’t have a question or two about what their career field will look like by the time they graduate, or even a few years after that. There are a number of fields that are constantly changing, and you can easily gain insight from a professional just by asking.
Try asking questions like, “Is there anything you wish you had learned in college before entering the field?” or “What skills do you suggest I build in order to be successful in the industry a few years from now?” And since you got that handy-dandy personal email, if you think of more questions a month later, you can easily send your boss a message.
5. How did you get to where you are today?
Asking about your boss’ and co-workers’ college experiences can give you an idea of how you should plan your future semesters and what projects are good to tackle in order to further build your skills and experience. Sometimes you’ll get answers that are five times better than the ones you were expecting. They may also be able to hook you up with the same contacts they had or people they met along the way who can help you with your goals.
Try asking, “Is there anything you suggest I do after I graduate to prepare for an entry level job?” Of course, there may not always be one sure-fire way to get the job of your dreams, but your boss and co-workers will be willing to help you in any way that they can.
Be sure to cherish the experiences you had and the knowledge you gained from your internship, and stay connected with all the people you met along the way!