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Summer Internships Often Key to a Job

Why you need to keep in touch


If you think a summer internship is just a summer internship, think again. The 2011 Internship & Co-op Survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers has found that about 40 percent of new entry-level hires came from internship and co-op programs. The same survey revealed that 58 percent of interns ended up being hired full-time, a good thing to remember when the national unemployment rate is topping 9 percent.

For students who expect to support themselves someday, the message is clear: stay in touch with those who can help you, and start staying in touch as soon as you say good-bye.

“Staying in touch with your summer internship employer shows your loyalty, motivation, and enthusiasm for the job, company, or industry as a whole,” says Kaitlin Long, internship coordinator for BU’s Center for Career Development. “Staying in touch will also—perhaps most importantly—give you a head start in the job search process and put you ahead of other candidates.”

Long points out that if a position arises in the future, a student who has kept in touch may have the home team advantage. “They’ll think, ‘Oh, she’s really made an effort to stay involved and has done great work here,’” Long says.

The tactic worked well for Fang Yuan (SMG’12), who believes that maintaining a relationship with his employer helped him return for three internships with the State Street Corporation. He says that keeping in touch has definitely helped him when looking to intern again at a company or when asking for a reference.

“I know I am going back to school, but that’s not an excuse to lose touch with my managers,” says Yuan, who is vice president of the BU Asian Student Union and this past summer interned at SCVNGR, a location-based social media game. “Your old bosses are busy with their full-time jobs, so it’s your responsibility to update them,” he says. “And if you’re going to ask them to write you a letter of recommendation, you need to keep refreshing their memories, because it’s hard to remember an intern if you haven’t talked very often.”

Interns’ previous employers are also great resources in the professional world, because they can help students network, says Eleanor Cartelli, Center for Career Development associate director of marketing and communications.

Leslie Mullings (SMG’12) knows that to be true. Mullings, a School of Management career peer advisor, has had four internships, most recently as an equity analyst at financial advising company Coburn & Meredith and at BU’s Internal Audit Department.

The same day he applied for one internship, the position’s hiring manager had breakfast with his internship supervisor, who was a good friend.

“Not only did I get the position,” Mullings says, “but the hiring manager ended up helping me with an event I was working on by providing a notable speaker from his company. You never know what effect a past employer might have on a future position.”

Long says that for employers, hiring from the intern pool is often the safest way to go. “They’ve seen the type of work you do and how you fit into the company’s culture,” she says. “Knowing what you can already do is quite an advantage over someone who has never had any interaction with the employer.”

In the best of all worlds, says Cartelli, internship advisors may serve as mentors throughout a student’s professional development, offering advice on such things as how to deal with a challenging colleague or what exactly business casual dress means.

The Center for Career Development offers these steps for staying in touch:

  • Send a thank-you note to your immediate supervisor and the people on your team and a general thank-you note for the entire office if it’s appropriate. Thank them for the internship, but also mention what you learned. Be specific about some of the projects you worked on and how they enriched your learning experience.
  • Stay connected with your supervisor through email, but no more than three times a semester. Share what you’re involved in at BU and what you’re working on in class. You might want to set up a Google Alert for the organization, as you can mention the news in one of your emails to start a conversation. This knowledge shows a level of interest and demonstrates that you want to be involved with the company.
  • Ask your internship supervisor how you can continue to build your professional network, to recommend course work, and what skills you should continue to develop. Maybe ask them for coffee or lunch if you’d like to pick their brain.
  • If asked to work on projects throughout the school year, take those assignments that you have the time to do well.
  • Update your résumé, integrating the internship experience, and send the new résumé to your internship advisor.
  • Finally, reflect on your experience and put it in writing for your own edification. Ask yourself if you met the goals you set out for yourself when you began your internship. What did you like about the industry and what didn’t you care for? “A lot of times students look at internships only as a way to get experience,” Long says. “Figuring out what you don’t want to do is just as important as figuring out what you do want to do.”

The Center for Career Development hosts Finding & Managing an Internship today, September 14, at noon in the CCD office, 19 Deerfield St., third floor. More information and registration is available here.

The CCD encourages students to visit BU’s CareerLink, where they can search for thousands of internships and jobs, sign up for career events, and manage their résumés and cover letters. In the next few weeks, the CCD will send out a survey to returning students asking about their summer experience and internships.

Amy Laskowski

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

One Comment on Summer Internships Often Key to a Job

  • Eric Hsiao on 09.20.2011 at 12:16 pm

    I agree on the importance of keeping in touch with your supervisor because it maintains that relationship and keeps you fresh in their mind for the next recruiting season. I recently had lunch with my summer internship supervisor and was thrilled when he gave me a job offer.

    I think building up a linkedin profile and network is also very important. In today’s world, why not use social media to find a job? You can get recommendations from your past employers and eventually you’ll start getting interviews through linkedin from recruiters looking to meet with you.

    -Eric Hsiao

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