Summer Spotlight: Make the Most of Your Summer Work Experience

Advice from Students and Young Alumni

Summer is a time when many students are getting work experience through a part-time job, co-op position or internship. Some may not be thinking strategically about what they need to be doing in these temporary roles to help ensure long-term career success — but they should be.

Getting Feedback
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Student recieves feedback from working professional. 

To kick off a summer series on career resources, we asked upperclassmen and young alumni what advice they would give current students on how to make the most of their work experience this summer.  They have worked at firms ranging from Boeing to Kurt Salmon to Tindall Corporation. Here’s what they had to say:

On Networking:

“Work your butt off. Forget about being a college student for a semester and show your supervisor that you're responsible enough to tackle real-world problems. Then connect with every person you've met on LinkedIn or some other networking tool so you can call on them for a position or a reference come job application time.”  — Scott Jossey, aerospace engineering student

“Get out of your comfort zone and keep in touch after the internship or co-op has ended. Staying connected across semesters is meaningful. Take the initiative to set goals or milestones to elicit feedback on performance and accomplishments.”  — Margeaux Leighton, BA 11

“Don't stop networking just because you landed the position. You want to keep building strong contacts in the company and the industry because your contacts can put in a strong word for you when you apply elsewhere later.”  — Hunter Hammond, BA 13

On Finding Things to Do:

“Ask questions and get involved with a key project. If you don't feel visible, make a list of potential projects you could initiate, tasks you can help accomplish, or areas that you are interested in learning more about. Engage with others outside of your department and say yes to things that may not be 100 percent in your field of study or ideal job description. You will learn something from it. Also, keep a running list of things you have worked on as you go. It will be easier to know what you have done come resume time and will provide a quick assessment of what your bandwidth is.”  — Courtney Telfare, IE 12

“You may not have something to do every moment of the day, but that doesn't mean you're not valuable. Be proactive about seeking out work, but don't bug your boss constantly. When you do have downtime, try and find projects you think could be helpful — and if you run out of things to do, get really, really good at Excel and VBA.”  — KC Young, IE 10

“Push your boss or mentor to expose you to multiple aspects of your industry. It will allow you to determine a more specific direction to take after graduation and give you a ‘big picture’ understanding of all of the variables that come together to contribute to your success.”  — Mary Leah Todd, BC 09

“If you are experiencing a slow day, ask your boss if can you shadow them. Better yet, ask if you can visit an employee in another department that catches your attention and spend the day shadowing them.”  — Brandon Dupree, mechanical engineering student

“Ask your boss to let you sit on an interview panel to experience what it's like from the other side. It will give you an inside look at how interviews can go, good and bad.”  — JD Ingram, AE 12

A few other recommendations are:

Be Professional

  • Brush up on workplace etiquette
  • Always be on time, but be early whenever possible
  • Deliver high-quality work
  • Dress the part — fit in with culture. (More on this next week!)

Manage Your Experience

  • Don't let your experience happen to you
  • Be vocal about how you want to grow and projects that you'd like to work on

Stay tuned: Next week’s Summer Spotlight addresses things students should do every summer to prepare for the next phase of career development.