Take a deep breath: Here are five strategies to make your last experience work for you even if it's over.
1. Be vocal about your interests for future additional work together--if it is a possibility. If a short term position was a worthwhile experience for you and you areinterested in working for the organization in a full-time capacity, let your supervisor know. Internships can be a major pipeline for full-time hires--even in a down market: in 2008, 36% of all employment offers reported to the National Association of Colleges and Employers were made by companies to former interns.
2. Ask for a written recommendation that you can keep--or better
yet--store in a credentials file at your institution so that it can be
sent out on your behalf in the future. (Remember that employee
transition is relatively common: your supervisor may decide to move on
from the company--and you don't want to lose a record of what you've
LinkedIn recommendations are also cool. (If you had an exceptionally good experience, offer to be an "ambassador" for your organization on campus or in speaking with other students. This can keep you "top of mind" for the organization.)
3. Update your resume and ask your supervisor to help you in describing what you've done. Your supervisor should be able to help you articulate the impact of the concrete tasks you've performed: What was the significance of your work on the organization as a whole?
During my college years, I experienced this first-hand after an internship at a Fortune 500 company that specialized in paper manufacturing. One of my major responsibilities was to edit the corporate phone book. This involved calling company employees all over the world (but mainly in the U.S.) to verify their phone numbers. It wasn't the most exciting project ever, but when it came time to write it up, my supervisor changed my resume description of "verified numbers for company phone book" to "One of two employees responsible for accuracy of information in corporate telecommunications directory for multi-national corporation." Which sounds more impressive to you?
4. Stay in touch. One great way to do this is to follow-up with your previous employer with periodic updates on what you are studying and your interests, as well as by providing information that is of interest to them. For example, if you find an article online or stumble across an item you feel would be of potential interest, forward the URL and let them know that you are thinking of them.
5. Even if the experience was a "dead-end" in terms of potential for future opportunity, reflect on what you've learned: how did the internship help you refine your career goals of what you do and do not want to do? (I once had an internship of one day--I volunteered for a handgun control organization and discovered my job was to read through magazines and maintain a database of gun types. I decided quickly--not for me!)
Follow these tips and you'll be on your way to helping your short-term opportunity "have legs" that will help you progress more rapidly as you start the next phase of your career.
To your success,