An Open Letter to Summer Interns Looking to Make the Most of their Experience (Part 1)

Dear Intern,

Congratulations on landing this position. You've worked hard to get this opportunity and you want to make sure you get the most out of it. During the remaining weeks of your internship, think of this opportunity as a chance to "try on" a new role, or possibly several new roles if you're given the chance to rotate through different areas of the organization. At State Street we welcome 750 interns each summer, and we try hard to help them get the most out of their summer experience. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of yours:

  1. Have expectations and manage them. Even if you're well into your internship, now is a great time to think more about what you hope to accomplish on the job this summer. While you may have started out with the simple goal of gaining experience, it's not too late to list a few specific objectives. These can vary from simple to ambitious -- like introducing yourself to at least one new person a day, to learning JavaScript or presenting a proposal to a group of co-workers. If you don't seem on track to accomplish your goals, let your manager know you'd like to take on more responsibility. Managers don't always have a lot of time to manage interns, so it's up to you to be vocal about what you want. And you will learn another valuable lesson in the process, which is you are in charge of managing your career!

  • Don't just sit at your desk. You want to stand out as an intern and that's hard to do if you're sitting in a cubicle where no one sees you. Volunteer to attend meetings or do the work no one else wants to do - your boss will be appreciative. Walk around. Get to know people in different departments. Strike up a conversation in the elevator or kitchen. You never know when you'll have a conversation with someone who has a need that matches your skill set.
  • Network as much as possible. It's possible the most important thing you'll walk away with this summer is a network of new professional connections. These contacts can be helpful as future references, mentors or friends. Challenge yourself to meet people and learn about their roles in the company. Job titles can be mysterious -- even to the people who hold those roles. Don't be embarrassed that you don't know what a "Change Management Analyst" does. Make it your mission to find out, and then connect with them on LinkedIn.
  • Speak up and ask questions. If you don't understand something, be sure to speak up. Companies are famous for having acronyms that are shorthand to them but may seem like a foreign language to everyone else. You're an intern and you're there to learn, so don't be afraid to ask questions or admit you don't understand something. Also, curiosity is a highly valued trait and your manager will appreciate your interest in learning more about his or her business.
  • Keep a record of your accomplishments. Every week, jot down your key accomplishments, whether it was sitting in on a call with the vice president of sales, contributing to a report or booking a meeting space. Even if something seems small, it can demonstrate a useful skill, such as knowing how to use Excel. Keep track of those accomplishments, because before you know it the waning days of summer will be gone and you'll be left wondering exactly what you did for those three months. When it's over, you'll want to distill your summer experience into three to five talking points that you can use in a future interview to help parlay your internship into a full-time job.
  • The good news and bad news about a summer internship is that it eventually comes to an end. Whether you find yourself immersed in challenging work that allows you to develop new skills or mostly performing routine tasks, a finite end ensures you'll soon be ready for your next move. These tips can help you make a strong and lasting impression on your summer officemates. And who knows? They could be your future co-workers someday if your internship goes well.