Here are five great ways to make your internship experience work for you after the internship is over:
1. Reflect on what you've learned from the experience: how did the internship help you refine your career goals of what you do and do not want to do?
2. If the internship was a great experience for you and you are interested in working for the organization in a full-time capacity, let your supervisor know. Increasingly internships are becoming a major pipeline for full-time hires: in 2008, 36% of all employment offers reported to the National Association of Colleges and Employers were made by companies to former interns.
3. 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 done).
4. 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.
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?
5. 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.
Follow these tips and you'll be on your way to helping your internship "have legs" that will help you progress more rapidly as you start the next phase of your career.
To your success!