Your Internship is Coming to an End, Now What?

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Internships can be a great way for college students to dip their feet into the career world and make contacts to help them with their job search after graduation, but they have to stay in touch and reinforce their relationships once their experience is over.

You go to school for a degree that makes you marketable, but an internship lands you a career, says JP Hansen, career expert and author of The Bliss List: The Ultimate Guide To Living The Dream At Work And Beyond. Once youre there, youre in. Youre no longer an electronic applicant who gets shelved in corporate cyberspace.

Creating solid connections in an internship doesnt just happen as a last-ditch effort. Cynthia Shapiro, career expert and author of What Does Someone Have To Do To Get A Job Around Here?, explains that it is important for students to build their relationships with colleagues over the entire length of the internship.

After the first month goes by, start sending out LinkedIn requests to all of the people that work there and start gathering phone numbers, she says. You want to be going out to lunch and coffee with these people while youre working there, because if you wait until after your internship, its going to seem really insincere.

Michael Kenny, COO of Aarrow Advertising, tells interns at his company to collect business cards and e-mail addresses from co-workers and keep them on file.

Have a conversation with everyone in their office before you leave, let them know youre leaving, and that youd like to keep in touch, he says.

Talk with your supervisor

A week or two before an internship is scheduled to end, the experts recommend students sit down with their supervisor to review their progress and ask get helpful insight into an industry.

This way, you get some great feedback for the future but also youll get an indication whether or not this person might be a good advocate to you when youre looking for a new position, say Ellyn Enisman, author of Job Interview Skills 101 and founder of CollegeToCareerCoaching. I would make sure that I ask if it would be OK if I could keep in touch with them as you move on in your career.

Students should also connect with the hiring manager. While there are things to be gained in the long run from the experience--like a job--Shapiro warns against going into the discussion with that as the sole motive to avoid coming off as disingenuous.

Instead of saying I want a job simply let the hiring manager know how much you enjoyed the opportunity, how much you enjoyed working at the company, says Shapiro. That will leave the door open without asking anything.

Write a thank you note

No  matter the culture of the company, the experts unanimously agree that sending a hand-written thank-you note is always well received.

It should be to your supervisor, to the HR person, and any other key gatekeepers that you identified while you were there, says Shapiro.

Shama Kabani, CEO of the Marketing Zen Group, suggests students recount what experience they gained and how grateful they are for the opportunity.

I think whats more important is how heartfelt it isthanks so much for these things, I really appreciate my experience here, so the details do count, she says.

Hansen points out that some companies include a follow-up note as a necessary step in the hiring process, and students shouldnt lose out on an offer by neglecting to send a note.

Check up on the company

Even after your internship has ended, the experts agree that it is a good idea to stay in the loop about whats happening with the company. Kabani suggest students sign up for the companys news releases or newsletter to help keep up to date about whats going on.

Thats the ideal time to respond and say, I just saw that we landed this contract, I remember working on this project when I was there, it was wonderful working for you guys, she says. Things like that make a difference because it shows that you kept an interest in the company and are following up.

Follow up appropriately

When a few months have passed since the end of the internship, students shouldnt hesitate to send a note every once in a while so as not to fade away in the former employers mind.

With that said,  students need to strike a balance; they dont want to contact people too often or they might come off as desperate, says Hansen.

Send an occasional e-mail. It is less intrusive and keeps you in the employers mind.

Shapiro suggests contacting the former internship once a quarter at the maximum, but tread carefully about how you go about it. Students dont want to ask for help getting a job right off the bat, but rather ask them about how things are going with them, with the company, etc.

Wait for them to ask about you and then you share what youre doing as news, only as news, says Shapiro. If you ask for stuff, theyre going to bristle and feel used. You really want to treat it as a real relationship.