What to Do After the Internship

Updated: November 26, 2019

Once you’ve wrapped up your internship, it’s tempting to sit back and spend a few days (or weeks) binge-watching reality TV shows. But even though your internship is over, things shouldn’t grind to a halt. There are plenty of ways to keep reaping the benefits of your experience long after you’ve turned in your badge.

Want to finish your internship off the right way? Read on.


Evaluate what you learned

You do an internship to learn valuable real-world skills, so now’s the time to ensure you got what you came for. Soon after your internship, while everything’s still fresh in your mind, assess how the experience has helped you grow and develop your talents. Your internship supervisor and college career center will likely have some written assessment to help you evaluate the experience. Here are a few key ways to measure the growth of your learning curve:

  • Review your papers. Read over your pre-internship or first-day documents, including the original internship description, offer packet, and first-day documents should list your goals and expectations. Review them and check off the ones that you’ve met. Look over the assignments you’ve and note the new skills you’ve developed. Read your internship supervisor’s final evaluation and note your strengths and weaknesses. Lastly, take a moment to feel proud of what you’ve done.
  • Build a portfolio. Collect all the items—reports, projects, documents—on which you worked and include them in your portfolio. Write up a paragraph on each, explaining the original challenge and what you did in each instance. This will be helpful for applying to internships and jobs down the line.
  • Remember your contacts. Count the number of new contacts made during your internship, including your supervisor, other interns, and personnel in other departments. These people will serve as valuable resources when you start networking for future internships or jobs. Write down all their names and contact information so that you have it available when needed.
  • Update your resume. You have a shiny new line on your resume, so update it immediately with your new internship, new skills, and new accomplishments. Focus on your measurable impact (that means including numbers!) as an intern. Ask yourself what you did to have a positive effect at your company.


Say “thank you”

As soon as your internship starts drawing to a close, start saying “thank you” to anyone and everyone who’s made it a positive experience. From your internship supervisor to your coworkers, HR staff members, and janitors, you can never thank too many people too many times.

  • Say thank you the right way. There are many ways to say thank you, so know your options and choose wisely, based on your company’s corporate culture. A hand-written note is always safe; just stick to neutral note cards. Double-check how to spell names, as well as all employee titles. If you’re more comfortable writing thank-you notes on a computer, use an informal typeface and sign the letter in ink.
  • Avoid common mistakes. While an email is fine to thank a friend for cooking you dinner, it’s not professional. Additionally, don’t buy cards with pre-printed messages and just sign your name. It’s much more meaningful to write a personal message, speaking to specific ways in which that person helped you. And don’t wait too long to say thanks—try to finish your thank-you notes and distribute them by your last day, saving postage and ensuring that they reach the right people. If you do send them post-internship, mail your notes to the office address
  • Other ways to say thanks: You’ll definitely leave a favorable impression if you bring home-made cookies or pick up donuts for your office mates on your last day. If your supervisor has been exceptional, you may want to offer to take them to lunch on your last day or after the internship ends as a way to stay in touch.


Ask for references

You likely needed to send over a list of references to get your internship, and now’s your chance to build that list. References and letters of reference will validate and document your hard work as an intern. You’ll want at least one reference letter, as well as verbal agreements to be future references from two or three other people. The sooner you start asking for references, the better. Here’s how to proceed:

  • Meet with your supervisor. Towards the end of your internship, make an appointment with your supervisor. Thank them for the opportunity to intern, and then ask them to write you a general reference letter that can be used for future internships or jobs. If you have a specific position in mind, you can ask them to write you a recommendation for that particular posting, highlighting specific skills mentioned in the description. At the same time, ask permission to use your supervisor as a general reference going forward—assuming the two of you have built a strong relationship.
  • Consider other appropriate references. Write up a list of any other people at your internship who could be good resources. You may have found a mentor or advisor who informally helped you. Sometimes, the human resources or personnel department can be called upon to provide a reference letter for you. You can never have too many references!
  • Consider timing. To make sure that you receive reference letters before you leave the internship, start making requests about two weeks before your internship ends, giving everyone sufficient time to write a well-crafted letter. Thank everyone in advance, mention the date of your last day, and state that you’ll be back to pick up the letter that day—if not before.


Keep adding value

One of the best ways to make an impact as an intern is to add value for the company after your internship has officially ended. Rather than asking for references and going on your way, think about what you can do to continue helping out.  Consider any gaps you saw during your internship, be proactive, and present a few ideas to your supervisor. Even if they don’t need your help anymore, you’ll be respected for taking the initiative. Here are a few ideas to make an impression after you’re gone.

  • Give yourself some homework: Based on what you’ve learned during your internship, give yourself a last assignment to add value for the company. For example, if you’ve been evaluating data, you could offer to write up a report on the results. You can also offer to conduct research, update the company website, or write guides to best practices. After you’ve decided on a useful assignment, write a proposal and timeline and present it to your supervisor for approval.
  • Support other interns: Companies love interns, but they’re often overwhelmed by the responsibility of training and monitoring them. Why not offer to train your replacement intern(s) as a way to help out? Alternately, you can volunteer to write a how-to guide to help onboard new interns, answering FAQs on policies and corporate culture. You could also try writing an alumni intern newsletter or blog, which would also serve as a marketing tool for the company (and a great addition to your portfolio).
  • Act as a company representative: If your company attends career fairs, you could offer to go to these events as an enthusiastic rep, happy to share your recent internship experience with other students. You could also spread the word back on campus, helping to recruit outstanding candidates for the company.


Ask about future opportunities

As we’ve discussed time and again, internships are often the gateway to full-time jobs. If you’ve enjoyed your internship and are interested in pursuing a future with the company, you’ll want to devise a plan and timeline to discuss with the appropriate parties. Here’s what to do:

  • Consider the possibilities: Do you want to continue your internship remotely? If your internship is unpaid, would you want to change it into a paid part-time job? Or if you’re graduating, do you want to apply for a full-time job with the company? Can you see yourself as a paid consultant for the company in the future? Rank the various possibilities and move forward accordingly.
  • Make a plan. When you know what you want, it’s time to set up a meeting at your college’s career center to run your ideas past them. Take into account their feedback and decide what you want to do. Then, make an appointment with your internship supervisor. Before the meeting, rehearse your talking points and make an agenda. At the meeting, propose your ideas to your supervisor, highlight how you’d add value, thank them, and express your hope for a continued relationship with the company.
  • Consider the alternatives. You probably won’t get an answer immediately, so send a thank-you note to your supervisor and be patient. If you hear back and the company can’t accommodate your request, say thanks, stay in touch, and move on. There are plenty of alternatives. You can pursue those same opportunities at a similar company, or ask your career center to direct you to the appropriate organization. Whatever you do, maintain a positive attitude and turn your energy into action.


What about negative internship experiences?

That’s an excellent, and important, question. If you had a negative experience at your internship, know that you’re not alone. Before you decide how to handle the situation, evaluate your internship carefully and decide what went wrong. Then, proceed accordingly. Follow these tips to put the negative experience behind you and look to the future (and future internships) with a positive attitude:

  • Evaluate your internship. Sometimes, the problem isn’t the internship itself. Did you go into the internship with unrealistic expectations? Were you overqualified, or underqualified, for the role? Were you occasionally given unexpected assignments that annoyed you, such as getting coffee or making copies? None of that is anyone’s fault. However, if the internship duties changed, resulting in nothing but busy work, excessive overtime, or an unpleasant work environment, then the company is at fault. You were probably too polite to say anything at the time, but you’ve built up resentment—and understandably so.
  • Express your feelings. There’s no reason to air your grievances to the company itself. It’s too late to change anything, and you want to keep things professional in case you need a reference later on. That being said, you owe it to future interns to report back to your school’s career center. Sit down with a counselor and explain why the internship didn’t live up to your expectations. If another student asks you about your internship, think carefully before you reply. If the student is considering the same internship, give your honest opinion (but keep things polite). However, if it’s just an idle question, it’s better to simply shrug off the inquiry.
  • Look to the future. Fortunately, most students do multiple internships throughout their time at school. Hopefully, future internships will go swimmingly. Think about what you did like about your internship (there has to be something!), and then spend some time on Chegg Internships, browsing through thousands of internships, searching for the right one for you. Be choosy. After all, you deserve a great internship experience.