Professional Confessional

A blog providing tips and resources for life after college

TIP: Completed the Internship! Now What?

Congratulations! You completed your summer internship working in an industry you selected as a potential career path. You now have experience in a field that you can speak about during interviews. Now what?

The experience you gained this summer is too important to dismiss. So, I don’t want you to simply check the internship box and move on…Too frequently, we rush to complete a task without giving it much thought. It is easy to return to school and forget about your internship experience. You will miss a vital step in the learning process of your experience – Reflection. What do I mean by reflection? Reflection is making time to ask questions about the experience and discovering how you will move forward as a result. I recommend you review your goals, scan your journal for projects and tasks completed, reflect on the people you met, and areas of strength and improvement. This review will help you develop yourself as well as capture stories you can use for future internship and job interviews.

Schedule time now before temptation surrounds you to put it off for another day. Reflection will not be a priority once you set foot on campus. To help guide the reflection process, use the following questions:

1) As a result of this internship, I learned the following about myself:

2) What is the most important thing I learned about myself?

3) What did I like and/or not like about the internship? Therefore, I’m going to…

4) What are 2-3 things I consider my strengths? How am I going to further develop my strengths?

5) What skills did I develop? How can I apply these skills to academic coursework, extracurricular activities, future internships and post-grad life?

6) What new skills, knowledge, and abilities did you learn? How can I apply these new skills, knowledge, and abilities to academic coursework, extracurricular activities, future internships and post-grad life?

7) What is an area of improvement? How do I plan to develop this area?

8) What are 2-3 things am I interested in learning more about in the industry? How am I going to seek this information?

Get started by printing or downloading the internship reflection worksheet. Upon completion of the reflection exercise, you may need to adjust your internship and job search and career goals based on the information gathered about yourself and the experience. For additional information on reflecting on your internship, visit the career development website. If you need help, schedule a meeting with a career counselor to discuss how to apply your new knowledge in your career search.

Visit the Professional Confessional next week for a video on how to develop and tell your story to market your skills in internship and job interviews.

 

TIP: Staying Connected: Follow-Up and The Importance of a Thank You

Set yourself apart from other interns by staying connected and following up with your supervisor and key contacts (your network). It is important to continue to build your professional brand and reputation after your internship. A great example is to send a handwritten thank you note expressing your appreciation for the experience, guidance, and growth. You will make a great impression if you send a note to everyone who impacted your experience. Also, if you find an interesting article related to their industry, share it with them. It shows you have interest in news and trends related to their company and industry. The more you give to them; the more they will be willing to give back to you.

Read further as our employers share their thoughts on the importance of staying connected, following up, and sending thank you notes at the conclusion of an internship.

CSX logo

Lauren Dealexandris, Director of Intermodal Finance

Follow up is important throughout your career for several reasons. The contacts you make during that important first career experience may become future references, networking connections, or a potential hiring manager. We seriously consider our interns for full time positions, so that impression counts. In addition, it is an unbelievably small world and you never know when paths will cross again, so it is wise to build instead of overlook or burn bridges. Finally, this type of correspondence shows professionalism and maturity; it is not something everyone does, and you may be surprised at the responsiveness from employers. This helps build your brand and reputation with employers.

Deloitte logo

Liz Hannah, Carolinas Campus Recruiter

Timely follow-up is crucial to your success as a professional and is an effective way to reiterate your interest in a firm. Thank you notes are always greatly appreciated, but unfortunately, they often have spelling or grammatical errors which can hinder a candidate in the process. I would suggest exhaustively proofreading any thank you notes or emails before they are sent. In regards to promptly addressing a full-time offer following an internship, we highly value a quick response.

 

United_technologies_logo

Meghan Hayden, HR Functional Development Manager

A thank you note may be your last opportunity to make an impression, so don’t let it go to waste.

Use your note to personally thank someone for their time and efforts. State specifically some of the things you learned in the role, and how you might use those skills in the future. Ask for support from your manager for a full-time role, or thank them for already providing that support.  Close the message by opening the door for future contact. You can tell a manager that you will call them in a few weeks or months to find out how a project is progressing, or to catch up on the outcome of one of your classes. If you make a commitment, keep it.

(Don’t forget, in business correspondence a thank you should always be a typed letter or e-mail, not a hand-written card.)

 

TIP: Receiving Feedback on Your Performance

Before you leave your internship, you’ll want to gather feedback from your supervisor. Seeking feedback helps you uncover your hidden strengths and weaknesses. The feedback is based on your performance and skills demonstrated during the internship. Unlike your academic coursework, you don’t receive a grade on every task you complete on the job. Oftentimes, the only time you receive feedback on your work is during annual evaluation. However, you may be fortunate to have frequent meetings with your supervisor to solicit feedback on your performance throughout the year. The internship is a great place to practice receiving feedback in a professional manner. It is best to have these conversations in person rather than by phone or email. This can be accomplished by requesting a meeting with your supervisor. Don’t wait until the last day of your internship or after you leave! Schedule the meeting one to two weeks prior to your departure date. Therefore, your job performance and contributions will be fresh on his/her mind.

Make it easy for your supervisor by providing him/her with a performance feedback evaluation form. Prior to the meeting, use the form to reflect upon your experience and self-evaluate each competency area. If you kept a journal of internship projects and experiences, use it as a reference to write down concrete examples of how you demonstrated specific skills. The form will help guide the conversation with your supervisor. “An oral review of the written evaluation can provide you with several benefits, including preparation for performance review sessions with future employers, meaningful self-reflection on the significance of the work-learning experience, and focused dialogue with a professional in the field about your readiness for a particular career path or position. Most importantly, in-depth discussions centered upon established performance standards could enhance the likelihood that you would leave the internship with a more realistic understanding of your professional performance.”[1] This may be the only opportunity to receive specific feedback on your work as an intern. Ask your supervisor to review the form, rate your performance, and provide examples of skills demonstrated during the internship. These examples will help guide you in further developing your skills for life after college.

When you return to school, use the feedback evaluation form (from your reflection and the feedback received from your supervisor) to select areas for improvement, and seek opportunities to build those skills in the coming year. The skill-building directory is a great resource for searching for opportunities on campus to develop and strengthen your skills. I encourage you to continue building your professional skill set by using a variety of methods such as academic coursework, extra-curricular and co-curricular experiences, and educational workshops.


[1] http://www.naceweb.org/s06122013/intern-performance-review.aspx

TIP: Asking for a Recommendation – Part 2

OPCD Expert Contributor – Lauren Beam, Assistant Director of Alumni Personal and Professional Development

A common question that I receive from students during internship search season in the Spring semester is “How do I go about asking my supervisor from my last summer’s internship for a letter of recommendation or to serve as a reference?” Obviously, many students forget this all-too-important task at the end of their internship and ultimately put it off until applications for the next summer’s internships begin.

There are several risks involved with waiting to ask for a recommendation or reference. First, your work abilities and strengths will no longer be fresh on your supervisor’s mind. As a result, your supervisor may not be able to articulate the value that you could bring to a future employer once eight or more months have passed. Second, if you have not kept in touch with your supervisor, they may be unclear about your career path and where you are headed. This can be a difficult and awkward conversation to have via email or phone, which is why an in-person conversation during the summer is much more useful. You will want your supervisor to be clear about your career goals to best write you a letter that reflects your related skill set. Finally, you want to show respect for your internship supervisor’s time. By waiting until January or February when summer applications are due, your supervisor may not have enough turnaround time to write you a letter before deadlines hit. Asking for a letter of recommendation or reference towards the end of your summer internship experience is beneficial to both you and your supervisor.

Another common internship question often comes from rising seniors. Many of these students are interested in full-time job opportunities with their internship employer for after graduation. Some companies (depending on the career industry) are known for making offers to some of their interns at the end of the summer, based on internship performance and the number of entry-level job openings available. If your internship site does not have a process for making end-of-summer job offers, you may also want to inquire about job opportunities in a meeting with your supervisor as the summer comes to a close. Be sure to emphasize your interest in the company, how much you learned through your summer experience, and your desire to contribute to their organization in the future. Then, proceed with a verbal inquiry about full-time positions and how you should proceed in the coming year. For some employers, they may be interested in hiring you, but will ask that you check back in with them via phone or email in late Fall or early Spring when they have more information about their hiring needs and open positions.

TIP: Asking for a Recommendation – Part 1

OPCD Expert Contributor – Lauren Beam, Assistant Director of Alumni Personal and Professional Development

Securing a letter of recommendation, reference, or future job offer from your internship supervisor is best done in person and towards the end of your summer internship experience. Here are some tips and advice for how to do the “asking.”

Watch the video highlighting six steps to asking for a recommendation.

To learn more, read further for details on asking for a recommendation.

Why Ask for a Letter of Recommendation Now vs. Later?

1 – Your performance is fresh in your supervisor’s mind.

2 – You can have an in-person conversation about your future career goals.

3 – It’s not last minute (i.e. the following Spring semester when job and internship applications are due) and provides more time for the supervisor to write a letter for you.

Steps to Asking for a Letter of Recommendation:

1 – Set up a Meeting: Set up a meeting with your direct supervisor and/or other key colleagues that you have worked closely with over the summer. Schedule approximately 1-2 weeks before your internship ends.

2 – Get Feedback and Discuss Career Goals: Use the meeting(s) as an opportunity to get feedback on your performance throughout the summer – what you did well, areas for improvement. You may also use this time to share what you learned and the next steps in your career trajectory. If you are a rising senior, you may also express interest in full-time job opportunities, if available, within the organization.

3 – Ask for the Letter of Recommendation: As the meeting comes to a close, this would be an appropriate time to ask for the letter of recommendation and/or to list your supervisor as a reference on future applications. You might say “As my internship is coming to an end, do you feel comfortable writing a letter of recommendation for me to use for future applications and opportunities?”

4 – Provide Supporting Materials: Have a copy of your resume (updated with your summer internship experience) for your supervisor to refer to when writing your letter. You may also choose to provide examples of your work from the summer and any other supporting materials to help your supervisor best capture your skill set and value to a future employer.

5 – Say “Thank You”: A “thank you” note goes a long way. As your internship draws to a close, you should write a hand-written “thank you” note to your supervisor (for their support throughout the summer and for the letter of recommendation) and any other colleagues that have assisted you throughout your internship.

6 – Stay in Touch: Stay in touch with your supervisor and provide periodical updates throughout the year on your career progression. For example, you would want to give them a “heads up” when using their letter of recommendation or name/contact information as a reference on a job or internship application. Keeping your supervisor in the loop will enable them to speak highly of you when contacted by a potential new employer.

TIP: Building a Network at Work

You’re meeting new people and developing relationships with your colleagues. This group is an important one to nurture during your summer job or internship. You may be asking…What is the best way to build a network at work? How do I foster those relationships?

Here is what a few of our employers say:

 

CSX logo

Lauren Dealexandris, Director of Intermodal Finance

Staying in touch with people through various means, and getting back to them quickly when they reach out to you is very important in building and maintaining relationships. Open communication and challenging is much easier when you have a previously established relationship, which makes advancing business issues and solutions more effective.

 

Deloitte logo

Liz Hannah, Carolinas Campus Recruiter

Building your network is imperative and will open many doors for you down the road!  From the start of the recruiting process you will have the opportunity to meet individuals of all levels through recruiting functions, training/orientation, engagement team assignments, the counselor/mentor program, intern events, business resource groups and community service activities.  It is imperative that you get to know and keep in touch with these people.  Everyone within our firm, from our Global CEO down, is extremely approachable and desires to expand their network as well by getting to know you.

 

United_technologies_logo

Meghan Hayden, HR Functional Development Manager

During an internship you will have only a few months to establish connections, so you will need to act fast!

  • Start off strong. Show up prepared to work on your first day. Know how the company has been making the news over the last few weeks and  months.  Bring a notepad and have some questions prepared.
  • Get some quick wins.  Make your first few tasks count by showing your manager that you are dedicated to doing high-quality work.  Turn in “Completed Staff Work,” a product that is in final draft, proof-read, formatted to print, and ready to be forwarded to the customer without additional edits from your boss.  This should get their attention.
  • Build a strong reputation. Deliver on every commitment, or at least proactively communicate a roadblock.  Become someone your team can count on.
  • Ask for support. Talk with your manager, Human Resources manager, or team members about your career aspirations. Ask if they will support you as a candidate for a full-time position at the company, or if they would be willing to write you a letter of recommendation. Follow up with a thank you email in timely fashion.

TIP: Building Relationships

OPCD Expert Contributor – Allison McWilliams, Director of the Mentoring Resource Center & Alumni Personal and Professional Development

One of the most important outcomes of your summer job or internship experience is the opportunity that it presents to build effective, positive personal and professional relationships. This is the beginning of your network, the group of people who will mentor you, provide resources and contacts, write letters of reference for you, guide you and give you feedback. Clearly, this is a very important group of people! However, building this network is sometimes easier said than done. The people you will be working with will be incredibly busy, and may not seem to have time to devote to your growth and development. So how then do you build a relationship with them?

Watch the video to find the answer.

To learn more, read further for details on building personal and professional relationships.

First, it starts with you. And, it starts with the work. You may feel that you are the lowest rung on the ladder, but trust me. Good work, and bad work, gets noticed. And good and bad behavior gets noticed. One of the easiest ways for you to build effective relationships with your co-workers and colleagues is to show up, every day, ready to give 150 percent to whatever task is in front of you. When you have downtime, seek out additional responsibilities. Ask others what you can do to help them. A great work ethic builds great relationships.

Second, take the time to focus on your growth and development. Quite frankly, if you aren’t willing to do the work on your own growth, then why should anyone else be bothered to help you? Set a few personal and professional goals for the summer. What are you going to work on between now and August? Once you have these goals and have established some rapport with your colleagues (which means, simply, you’ve taken the time to get to know them and feel comfortable around them), seek out one of these individuals and ask if you can take them to coffee or lunch to learn more about their career path. As part of this conversation, be prepared to ask for some feedback: what can you do to get better in your job, and what can you do to accomplish your goals?

Third, take ownership of the process. After you ask someone for advice and guidance, be sure to take the steps they have recommended, and then follow-up to let them know the outcome. Say thank you. Take responsibility to learn everything that you can, about your position, about the industry that you are working in, and be reflective about what you are learning.

Building effective relationships is not rocket science, but it does require work, and that work starts and ends with you. The good news is, you have complete control over how hard you are willing to work, which means you have complete control over how you develop your network!

TIP: No Syllabus; No Grade

OPCD Expert Contributor – Patrick Sullivan, Associate Director of Career Education and Coaching

One of the biggest challenges about starting your internship is the ambiguity around what you are supposed to do. In college, you pick your courses well in advance, your professors provide a syllabus at the start of class and you know what you need to study to get a good grade on a test. If you are doing well at Wake Forest, you have probably figured out how to make this system work for you.

Your internship might come with a description of your responsibilities, but it doesn’t have a syllabus, there won’t be tests, and you won’t get a grade. How should you figure out what you need to do?

Watch the video highlighting suggestions for receiving feedback during your internship.

To learn more, read further for tips to help you get the feedback you need to succeed.

  • Ask for feedback. Because there isn’t a syllabus or a test in place, take it upon yourself to ask for feedback. Early on, ask for feedback from your peers. “What does the manager expect?”, “Is this the best way to prepare a presentation for the team?” are good questions for your peers. Once you have a basic understanding of your workplace and you have begun producing work that is of value to the organization, ask your manager for feedback. The answers to questions like, “How am I doing on this project?”, “Am I meeting your expectations on this project?”, or “Would you be willing to share your thoughts on what makes an outstanding intern/new hire?” can give you the direction you need to perform well.
  • Schedule informal interactions. If your workplace doesn’t have a formal review process in place (and let’s be honest, many organizations aren’t going to do formal reviews of their interns), make it a point to interact with your peers and your manager outside the workplace. Take someone to lunch and get their feedback. Take your manager out for a cup of coffee and ask for her input.
  • Try the formal approach. Here in the OPCD, we’ve designed an evaluation form designed to help you get the feedback you need. If you want more concrete information about your experience and the skills you developed, ask your supervisor to fill out the evaluation form at the end of your internship. Reflect on the feedback you receive and pursue opportunities to get better. And hey, although the form suggests that you seek input shortly before the end of your internship, it can be used at any time.
  • Act on feedback. This one’s important. If you get feedback from your peers or manager that suggests that you need to change something, you have to make that change. And let people know you are making that change. Telling your manager, “That idea you suggested? I tried it and you were right – it makes me much more efficient” is a great way to show that you are open to constructive criticism and able to grow personally and professionally.

So while there aren’t going to be tests or grades like you’ve had in college, you CAN still get feedback by purposefully interacting with your colleagues. What’s the result? The feedback you get will give you a better sense of your strengths and weaknesses. You can seek out training to develop skills that need improvement. You can build on your strengths to become a critical part of the team.

Just as important, though, is that you are developing relationships with colleagues that will be able to help you in the future. They can offer advice, feedback, and suggestions when you are ready to take your next step and they can be your biggest supporters as you get your full-time career started. Who knows – if things go well, they might be the people that you get your career started with!

TIP: The World of Work: Understanding Company Culture

You’ve landed the internship, set a budget, and created 2-3 SMART goals. Soon, you’ll be entering the world of work. The world of work has a different culture than your college campus. How do you navigate the world of work and understand its culture?

Here is what a few of our employers say:

 

CSX logo

Lauren Dealexandris, Director of Intermodal Finance

Observe others’ behaviors, talk to supervisors and peers what the cultural norms are, and ask questions when something doesn’t make sense. It is better to ask a trusted source about culture than accidentally make a mistake or wrong impression!

 

Deloitte logo

Liz Hannah, Carolinas Campus Recruiter

The best way to understand our company culture is by looking to our experienced employees. This is particularly important as company culture varies greatly among our clients and the engagement teams assigned to those clients. As a rule of thumb, always try to emulate the dress and conduct of the senior professionals on your engagement teams. Follow their discretion and let them lead by example when it comes to the appropriate level of conservatism within a specific environment. All of our experienced employees are here as a resource for interns and new hires, so if you ever question whether or not certain actions are suitable, just ask.

 

United_technologies_logo

Meghan Hayden, HR Functional Development Manager

Culture is essentially how things are done in your company. In my experience, most companies don’t have a single culture.  Large organizations like mine have guiding principles which are evident in every office and factory around the world, but each work group faces unique pressures and is comprised of unique personalities, which will influence the local culture.

If you want to know what behaviors are valued in your company, consider how your manager and teammates conduct themselves, and the competencies or values that are assessed during your performance reviews. Listen for themes within leadership messages, employer meetings and orientation material to gain insight.

Many different types of cultures can be successful, but not every culture will be the right fit for you. Internships are an excellent opportunity to assess a company and find out if your values and priorities align.  Make the most of this opportunity by asking questions and exploring different teams and departments to find the best fit.

TIP: Preparing for the First Day

You’ve heard the expression; you never get a second chance to make a first impression.  Why is that?  The first impression is a lasting impression.  It is vital to make a great first impression; especially as a young professional.  It could mean the difference between receiving lucrative assignments versus menial projects.  You want to be prepared for the first day of your professional experience.

Watch the video highlighting these key questions:  What do I wear?;  What do I bring?; and What can I expect?

To learn more, read further for details on preparing for your first day on the job.

1)      What do I wear?  Business-appropriate dress.  What does this mean?  Well, each industry has dress standards depending upon its culture.  For example, business formal is required for the finance industry, but not necessarily for the art industry.  Sometimes, dress can vary from department to department within an organization depending upon its function.  I recommend you call the office where you will be working to ask about dress standards for employees. If you go in for an in-person interview, pay attention to what people in the office are wearing. And when in doubt, always error on the side of conservative.

2)      What do I bring?  A padfolio and pen.  Keep track of everyone you meet.  They will be impressed you remembered their name and a personal fact about them when you see them again.  Also, write down instructions to assignments, projects, and deadlines.  This will ensure that you are meeting expectations, right from the start, and will also help you to track your assignments and projects as you do them.  Keeping a record of your experiences will be extremely helpful when you are updating your resume and preparing for future interviews.  Also, bring important documents necessary to complete human resources paperwork such as tax information (you will need two forms of identification), insurance, and direct deposit information.

3)      What can I expect?  Typically, your first day will be filled with tours, introductions, completing paperwork, and a meeting with your supervisor.  Remember, when you are introduced to someone, address each person using his/her surname or last name unless that person tells you to use his/her first name.  Always address your superiors by their last names.  Take cues on how to act in the office from your supervisor.  All eyes will be on you…you are the young professional.  They are expecting you to make a mistake.  Surprise them – act as if this is not your first job.  Meeting with your supervisor is the perfect opportunity to ask questions for clarity about your duties, culture, and expectations.

Make a positive lasting impression on your first day!