From Internship to Offer: Insights from Top Interns at Google, Facebook & More

Whether you're working at a financial firm, fashion company, or fast-paced startup, these tips will help you land a return offer and have an amazing summer.
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While Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson hit theaters in The Internship earlier this month, many students will star in their own internships this summer. And if you're one of those interns, then this article's for you.

As a former Google intern, I want to share insights that led to my full-time offer and provide advice from recruiters and top interns at Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon. Whether you're working at a financial firm, fashion company, or fast-paced startup, these tips will help you land a return offer and have an amazing summer.

Master Gmail shortcuts - While many people focus on learning Excel shortcuts (makes sense for investment bankers), the real time saver comes when you can navigate your inbox with just a few strokes of your keyboard. If you're in Gmail, click the gear icon in the upper right, select settings, and scroll to "keyboard shortcuts" to turn them on. Print out this cheat sheet and download a chrome extension called KeyRocket to learn quickly. Other email clients (such as Outlook) have shortcuts, too.

Send weekly recap emails to your manager - Every Friday, I emailed my manager and included bullets under the following categories: Things I did for Project A, Things I did for Project B, Things I learned, People I met, and Random. To be mindful of his inbox, I made sure to ask if he wanted me to continue after I sent my first recap email. Not only did he like the concept, but he later told me that it was incredibly helpful when it came time to writing my evaluation because he had concrete material to draw from. Not to mention, it was a great way to stay organized and track my progress over the summer.

Schedule weekly meetings with your manager and routinely ask for feedback - If your manager doesn't immediately schedule weekly check-ins, ask to set them up as soon as possible. Kellen Donohue, former intern at Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, emphasizes the importance of using these meetings to ask for feedback "even if your manager doesn't volunteer it." He says, "You don't want to be surprised at your midterm or final evaluation with feedback you could have used earlier." To get great feedback, be open and honest with your manager. Don't be afraid to signal when you're stuck and ask clarifying questions instead of nodding along.

Ask senior executives if they would be open to doing a "roundtable chat" or "lunch and learn" - If you cross paths with an inspiring senior level manager, don't hesitate to ask for their email and follow up. I've found that this particularly works well if you suggest inviting four to five other interns and making it a discussion as opposed to a one-on-one meeting. That way, you're spreading the love and the executive may feel like it's a better use of their time to speak with more people at once. But be warned - the meeting may not last long and it could easily take over a month to actually happen, if at all. Nonetheless, by taking this approach, my intern friends and I had dinner with Danielle Tiedt (CMO of YouTube), lunch with Stacy Brown-Philpot (Former Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Google Ventures, current COO of TaskRabbit), and an unforgettable meeting with Salar Kamangar (CEO of YouTube).

Become a morning person - As a former career advisor, Erin Rovner read over 1,000 intern evaluations and found that "the most common negative feedback came from being late, even if it was just by a few minutes." Arriving to the office on time (or even before your manager) does wonders for establishing your reputation as someone who is always ready to go. For college students, however, this is much easier said than done! If you're a night owl, I highly recommend reading about how Jason Freedman, CEO of 42Floors, systematically ended his terrible habit of insomnia.

Pitch your own project ideas - Doing well at what you're told is expected; doing well at what you create makes you exceptional. Once you're comfortable with your current responsibilities, tackle something new. Are there small projects sitting on your colleagues' to-do lists? Can you help create an internal database of some sort? Would it be helpful to provide an analysis of the competitive landscape? Ask around and keep your ears open for new ways to contribute. Of course, don't just run off and start working on whatever you feel; bring a list of ideas to your manager and go from there.

Meet with non-team members - Sit down with people from different departments and get a more holistic view of the company. Ask about their role, how they got there, and what they would improve about the company if they had the opportunity. Here's a list of really illuminating questions that could also spark interesting conversations. Along the same lines, seek out alumni from your school and hear their perspective.

Go out with interns and colleagues - Elynn Lee, current Google intern and former Amazon and Facebook intern, says it best: "If you're excited about the place you're living in, you'll be motivated to do well to earn a return offer. If you have fun in and out of work with coworkers and other interns, it'll also be more clear that you're a great fit for the company." Exploring your surroundings doesn't mean limiting yourself to restaurants, bars, and coffee shops either. For instance, my intern class rented a house in Lake Tahoe during the Fourth of July weekend and we did everything from hiking to kayaking to barbecuing. It was easily one of the most memorable experiences of the summer.

Ask to do a recap presentation before leaving - This is a perfect way to leave a strong last impression and thank all the people who helped you throughout the internship. Invite anybody who had an impact on your summer experience - and be sure to ask a few weeks in advance. In the presentation, emphasize all the work you did for your projects and lessons you learned - look back at your weekly recap emails for reference! Have fun with it, keep it brief, and allow time for questions.

Whatever you do, stay focused! Meeting interesting people, exploring your surroundings, and finding new opportunities is great, but never lose sight of your project goals and timelines. Find ways to have an incredible internship experience while advancing the company mission and thinking about the bigger picture. If you want to learn more or add your own insights, I started a Quora page to continue the conversation.

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