Your partners in educational excellence since 1994

You are here

Career Planning

Three Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Recent Internship

You’ve dusted the confetti off your shoulders from National Intern Day and thanked your internship sponsors. Now it is time to ask three questions.

How did I grow as a professional?

Undoubtedly, you picked up some new skills or leveled up in ones you already had. You might have learned how to write a press release, manage a commercial property, or analyze a company’s financials.

Did you learn something about how to function in the workplace? Deal with difficult people? Resolve conflict in a team? Solve a problem creatively? Manage multiple projects? A 2019 LinkedIn analysis of the soft skills most associated with getting hired found the top five are creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and time management. In my career coaching with students and recent grads, one of the first things we do is take stock of skills. You can get a head start by making a list of all the job-related and soft skills you gained or strengthened.

Do I now want to shift my career goals?

Did your dream internship turn out to be a dream-come-true or not so dreamy after all? The experience might help you rule in or rule out a whole sector of the work world (e.g., private, nonprofit, government), an industry or niche, or a type of work employer. You probably learned about work environments you thrive in, types of bosses and co-workers you mesh with, and work responsibilities you enjoy so much that time flies.

One rising junior whom I know learned about her own career priorities this summer through a disappointing experience in a nonprofit. She spent days with nothing to do, no opportunity to take initiative, and with a supervisor who was kind of checked out. She decided to leave and pivoted to another organization where she could work as a volunteer, not an intern, but got more meaningful hands-on exposure to nonprofit management.

What can I do to build on this experience?

Update your resume and LinkedIn profile, making sure not simply to list duties of the internship but also key accomplishments. This can be difficult when you feel like you were “just an intern.” A rewarding part of my work is drawing out the stories that demonstrate how you made a significant contribution and presenting those in a way that does not make it sound like you are claiming you ran the company.

Now is also the time to build on relationships. Connect with your co-workers and the organization’s leadership on LinkedIn and stay in touch.

Start thinking about next summer. That student who had to pivot? She is a finance major who was exploring the nonprofit sector to blend her quantitative acumen with a desire to help others. For next summer, she is aiming for a corporate internship to compare the experiences and focus her post-graduate career plans.

If you are graduating before next summer, think about whether you want to be hired by the organization where you interned. According to the NACE 2019 Internship & Co-op Survey Report, job offers were extended to 70% of interns last year, with nearly 80% accepting those offers. Do you want to be one of those, or did you learn that you would rather work somewhere else?

Oh, and about those thank you notes…it is not too late to send them!

Michelle Tullier specializes in helping students, recent graduates, and other young adults discover meaningful career paths and find success in job or internship searches. She has 30 years of experience as a career counselor in college, corporate, and independent settings. She can be reached at