5 Tips to Make the Most of Your Summer Job or Internship

Summer is around the corner, and many high school seniors and college students have lined up internships and summer jobs to strengthen their resumes.

It may feel like landing the position is the hardest part — but be careful. Future employers won’t simply be impressed by the word “job” or “internship” on your resume. They want you to be able to show what you’ve learned from your summer experience.

So, what are some things that you can do to make your summer job or internship count? Here are five key tips:

1. Write a blog.

Take the time a write a weekly blog post about what you are doing at your internship or job. You can include pictures or links to projects you are working on and document your progress in your new position. (Obviously, you won’t want to breach any confidentiality agreements with your employer, so be sure to post only content that can be public knowledge.) A blog is a really great way for you to start creating a portfolio to show prospective future employers. As you do this, remember to keep a positive tone. Whatever you write on the Internet is there to stay, though, so be thoughtful about your entries.

2. Read the literature.

Every field or industry has articles, blogs, and books written about it. If you’re working in child care for the summer, look for articles about child development, and then pay attention to how the theories you’re reading about play out in real life. If you have an internship in marketing, consume blogs about innovative advertising campaigns, or read books from leaders in the industry. Supplementing your summer experience with content will help you contextualize your position in the field — and having a broad context will help you excel in future job interviews.

If you’re having trouble figuring out what you should read, talk to your colleagues about books they’ve read about the industry. They may have great suggestions that you can add to your summer reading list.

3. Interview your manager.

Ask your manager if you can meet, or even get some coffee, so you can pick her brain about the industry. Write down some questions that you would like to ask your manager. A few that you may want to consider asking are:

  • How did you get started in this field?
  • What qualifications did you need for your position?
  • What are the aspects of your job that you enjoy most?
  • What are challenges you and others in the field are confronting?
  • What advice do you wish you had received at the beginning of your career?

Whether you are working at a fast-food restaurant or interning at a corporation, the answers you receive may open up your eyes to new possibilities and help you reconsider your next steps.

Related: The Value of Finding a Mentor During Your Internship

4. Choose two skills you want to develop, and practice them.

In general, employers want potential employees to demonstrate good communication, teamwork, decision-making, and problem-solving skills. Your summer job or internship offers a great opportunity to put these skills into practice.

If you decide to hone your ability to communicate, challenge yourself to give a presentation in front of a group or to lead a meeting, provided that these plans are OK with your employer. To improve your teamwork skills, try to work on projects with a variety of colleagues or offer to take on a task that will help your department. You can sharpen your decision-making skills by taking a leadership role on a project, or get better at solving problems by brainstorming solutions to an issue that is disrupting your work environment. No matter which skills you choose to work on, you’ll be able to draw on your summer experiences in your future career.

5. Write an entry for your resume, and ask for a reference letter.

Once your internship or summer job comes to an end, re-read your blog to remember what you did. Try to summarize your experience into four bullet points that show which skills you cultivated and what you achieved. You’ll be able to incorporate these points into your resume when you start looking for a job.

If you're still in high school, consider using what you learned during your internship in your college application essays.

Also take this as an opportunity to ask your manager or a colleague for a reference letter that you can use when applying to jobs. It’s a good idea to ask for this reference and to write up your bullet points while the memory is still fresh in your employer’s (and your own) mind.

Even if you are not in a classroom, you can learn many valuable lessons from your internship or job opportunity.

Be present, be curious, be enthusiastic — and your summer experience will serve you well in the fall and well beyond.

Find additional career and internship advice and answers from Joan McLachlan on Noodle.