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5 tips for making the most of your summer internship or co-op

It’s one thing to learn concepts in a classroom—but another to actually put them to work. Completing an internship or co-op—whether over the summer or during an academic semester—offers real-world experiences navigating different working environments and building your skills for your future career.

At Case Western Reserve University, the Office of Post-Graduate Planning and Experiential Education is here to help you connect with these types of professional opportunities, whether through established programs such as Summer on the Cuyahoga and Humanities @Work, or through the university’s expansive alumni network.  They can also offer you tips on resumes, cover letters and networking, and are available for appointments to assist in searches. 

But landing the perfect internship or co-op is just the start. Once you are on the job, there are steps you can take to leave a good impression. To find out how you can make the most of your internships, we checked in with Laura Papcum, assistant director for alumni career services in the Office of Post-Graduate Planning and Experiential Education.

Want to start the search for a future internship? Schedule an appointment with Post-Graduate Planning and Experiential Education through MyJourney.

Whether you hope to seek an internship or co-op in the future or are completing an opportunity this summer, we hope these tips will help you make the most of your experience. 

1. Meet and network with your new colleagues.

Introduce yourself to everyone you meet, and I mean everyone! Don’t just talk with people you think can help propel your career forward. You might be surprised to learn that being friendly to that stranger in the elevator left a great impression on the CEO. Don’t forget to check LinkedIn to see if any company colleagues are CWRU alumni.

2. Teamwork makes the dream work.

I know you have heard this, but truly, being a great team player and showing that strength is one of the top soft skills that employers look for. Practice collaborating with others and watch and learn what makes a great teammate. Always make sure to take initiative and keep busy by offering to assist in any way you can.

3. Identify a mentor.

Take a look around you: Who appears positive with a great attitude, has a great reputation and seems to really understand the company and culture? Let them know what you admire about their work ethic and professional capabilities. It is a great compliment to be asked to serve as a mentor, so don’t be intimidated. It’s important to be able to verbalize why you are looking for a mentor and what you hope to gain from the relationship.

4. Keep a positive attitude and don’t get involved in office politics.

Remember, you are there to watch and learn and nothing will bring you down faster than a bad attitude or getting involved in gossip. This is a learning opportunity so if you make a mistake, own it. Take constructive criticism well and thank the person for helping you to grow professionally. Whether you like your internship or not (yes, sometimes it won’t be the best experience) see it as a great way to determine what you want in your overall career.

5. Keep in touch.

Let everyone you work with know how much you enjoyed the opportunity and how much you learned.  Connect with your new colleagues on LinkedIn and while you are on LinkedIn, don’t forget to update your profile with your experience. Don’t be afraid to let everyone know that landing a full-time gig at your internship would be a dream come true!