5 Steps to Leaving Your Internship on a High Note
Internships don’t last forever—and in some cases that’s a good thing. But however eager you are to move on, remember that this is your last chance to learn from your boss and coworkers and shape your reputation with them. If you play your cards right, your final farewell can earn you solid references, invaluable insight, and possibly even future employment.
1. Say Thank you
Especially for a job as low on the expertise level as “intern,” you should appreciate the fact that anyone else could have been hired, and you were chosen. That opportunity is a big deal, as is any help you may have received along the way: mentorship, special assignments, even the just the trouble of supervision.
Sincerely thank everyone around you with a handwritten note, specifically acknowledging something they went out of their way to do for you, or a special kindness. It’s not only good for your career, it’s the right thing to do!
2. Conduct Informational Interviews
This is your last chance to pick everyone’s brain. Write down any unanswered questions you still have. Are you still clueless as to your boss’s back story? Confused about a process in your department? Ask your boss for 5-10 minutes to go over your last questions—and bring a list.
While you’re there, it's probably a good time to ask your boss for his thoughts on your performance, and what you might need to improve to succeed in the field.
3. Offer to Continue to Help
Freelancing is a great way to continue to build a relationship with old employees and bosses, and an excellent way to build your portfolio if the work is in your field.
Volunteer to continue work on a project you’ve already started, or take on a new one of your own, like a company blog or event idea. If you’re comfortable working for free, do that, but don’t be afraid to toss out a rate either. Your experience with the company is valuable—treat it that way!
4. Ask for a Letter of Recommendation
It’s best to mention this with plenty of notice, preferably as part of the, “Just wanted to remind you I’m wrapping up here in two weeks—was there anything you wanted me to finish up for you?” conversation.
Don't worry about seeming too forward—your boss was in your shoes once, and should understand the need for references when you’re starting out. Offer to do a quick write up of projects you worked on to jog her memory, and again, give plenty of notice.
5. Stay in Touch
Out of sight, out of mind—but it doesn’t have to be that way. Adding your contacts to LinkedIn is a nice way to keep them close by, and provides a quick means of contacting them that’s less likely to change than email addresses, especially when people change jobs.
As a general guide, try reaching out around 3 times a year, mentioning a development you noticed with the company or a recent career achievement you’ve had. Keep the notes brief, brag-free, and more interested in the reader than yourself. It will keep you fresh in the mind of your boss, which may prompt him to call on you first if an opportunity arises.
Finally: while it’s instinctive look to higher ups for advancement, keep in mind that your fellow interns will all end up with jobs eventually—quite possibly at a company you’d like to work for too. So keep in touch: you never know where your next opportunity might come from.