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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Changing Jobs

Headed Back to School? How to End Your Internship Right

You’ve put in your time, learned the ropes, and added some fantastic bullets to your resume (and, yeah, maybe made a few coffee runs). Now, it’s the end of the summer and your internship is coming to an end.

This point in time is arguably even more important than the beginning of your internship—you want to manage a graceful exit, make the most of what you’ve learned and who you’ve met, and, of course, get your name added to the list of full-time employee candidates. Here’s a guide to ending things on a great note, plus positioning yourself to land that post-grad gig.

1. Demonstrate What You’ve Learned

First—and most importantly—don’t succumb to internitis! Just because you’ve finally learned your way around the office and your time there is coming to a close doesn’t mean you can shift out of high gear. On the contrary, this is the time to put all your new skills to use and show that you’re an invaluable part of the team. Complete all projects with an eye for detail, give input during brainstorms or meetings, and go above and beyond for each final assignment. Show everyone that you listened, learned, and grew as an intern, and that you're ready to take on the duties of a permanent position.

2. Build a Portfolio

A week or so prior to your end date, talk to your boss about building a portfolio. Ask which documents or projects you can include (yes, you may have worked on all of them, but they still belong to the company—and in some cases, might be confidential), as well as any advice she has on pulling together the best samples of your work. Taking the initiative to put a portfolio together not only shows your commitment to your career advancement, but also reminds everyone just how much awesome work you’ve done.

3. Ask for a Review

You should definitely have a review at the end of your internship—so if your boss hasn’t scheduled one (or even mentioned it), ask her for the opportunity to sit down and discuss your time with the company. It’s important for your future to get specific feedback on the areas in which you’ve excelled, as well as where those where you can grow and improve.

This is also a great opportunity for you to ask about next steps. Express your interest in future opportunities with the company, then ask about them: Is the company hiring—for which positions, and when? If so, would you be a good candidate? Is there anything you can do to strengthen your application? Try to get your name (and resume) into the pile before you leave your internship. Seeing you and your work in the office every day will remind them why you should be considered for the position.

4. Clean Up

Yes, your internship may be over, but don’t leave a mess behind. Make sure all of your projects are completed or passed on to someone else, and plan to meet with your boss the week before you leave to tie up any loose ends. Making the transition easier on the team will only increase your chances of leaving a great impression and getting awesome references afterward.

5. Say Goodbye

You’ve wrapped up the work—but don’t forget about the people! Before you leave, send a brief email to the entire team, thanking them for their time and guidance. Give everyone your contact information and gather their business cards or connect with them on LinkedIn.

Then, for anyone you worked closely with, send a separate email with a more personalized thank-you. You can also politely ask if they would be comfortable being listed as a reference, or if they could provide you with a LinkedIn recommendation. Both can be your ticket to a future full-time gig.

And finally, make sure to say a friendly, face-to-face goodbye to everyone before leaving.

6. Stay in Touch

Even once your internship is officially over, don’t be afraid to follow up with the people you worked closely with. Whether you come across an article you think your former manager would like, you put something you learned at the office to use for a big project, or you just want to say hello, feel free to reach out over email or LinkedIn (this can also be a great chance to follow up on any open positions).

In addition, if you connected with someone at the company particularly well, reach out and ask for her advice from time to time. Often, people are more than happy to talk to you about your career goals and the industry, and building a relationship with a mentor at the company can be immensely valuable in helping you land a full-time position.

When you’re wrapping up an internship, you’re amidst one of the most exciting points of your career. Opportunity is everywhere, and how you act now can set the tone for your entire career. So, dive in head first, and enjoy the delicious ambiguity of your future.

Read more from The Daily Muse's Career Advancement Month.

Have advice for ending an internship? We’d love to hear it below.

Photo of goodbye post-it courtesy of Shutterstock.