Reflecting on Your Summer Internship: Making the Most of your Experience

While securing a summer internship certainly remains an accomplishment, many students miss the opportunity to make the most of their experiential learning opportunity by failing to engage in one essential act: reflection. Reflecting on your experiential learning opportunity can ensure you make use of the skills and knowledge you’ve gained in your future internships and employment opportunities. This article focuses on two components to make the most of your internship experience: reflecting on your internship and how to end your experience with the best impression. As your summer internship comes to a close, remember to take these key steps into consideration so you leave your position on a good note and make the most of your experience: 

How to Properly Reflect on your Internship

Whether you enjoyed your internship or didn’t quite get the positive work experience you anticipated, you’ve gained vital knowledge regarding the industry and your interests that you can carry with you in future endeavors. Aside from the academic aspects you’ve learned from your experience, it’s important to spend time contemplating all that you have accomplished, liked, disliked and gained from your experiential learning opportunity.

How did you expand your professional network? One of the most crucial aspects of an experiential learning opportunity involves the meaningful connections you make with professionals around you. These relationships can provide you with future job prospects, recommendations from co-workers and the potential to discover a mentor to guide you through the professional world. When reflecting on your internship, consider those from your experience who you connected most with, and how you can foster those relationships to grow in the future and benefit your career development. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Have you effectively cultivated meaningful relationships with people from your experiential learning opportunity? If not, how can you do so in the future?
  • How can you build a stronger relationship to those from your internship site for future benefit?

What outcomes did you gain? One of the most important reflections to make regarding your internship involves the outcomes your experience produced in relation to your career goals. Ask yourself:

  • How did this internship relate to my career aspirations?
  • If you disliked your experience, do you need to change your career goals?  If so, what changes must you make on campus and in your future experiential learning opportunity positions? What steps do you need to take?
  • What lessons overall can I take away from this experience regarding my future career development?

What skills did you build upon or develop? Let’s not forget, your experiential learning opportunity is meant to be a great resume-booster! One of the most beneficial aspects of reflecting on your internship involves your ability to communicate about your experience through writing as well as in your professional-pitch. To most effectively write a powerful resume description and speak about your skills, you need to specifically identify those skills and why they’re important!

  • What tasks did you complete that you excelled in and found gratifying?
  • What skills did you gain from your experience and how did you develop them throughout your internship?  How can you apply them in your future positions?
  • What did you accomplish for the company during your time as an intern?

How to Leave your Internship Successfully

You’ve worked assiduously during your time at your internship — don’t let all that you’ve done be tarnished by a mediocre send-off as your position comes to an end! So, what can you do to wrap up your experiential learning opportunity in the best way that you can?

Keep up the good work. Don’t let your hard work start to decline — prove to your supervisor and your co-workers that you not only learned from your experience, but you also exceeded expectations and took on even more responsibility. As you prepare to leave your position, meet with your supervisor to ensure that you’ve completed all your projects and done all that you can do to ensure that the company can operate smoothly in lieu of your absence.

Gather tangible examples of your work. Don’t just say how you helped the company succeed on your resume; have the evidence to prove your competence. Work with your supervisor to gather the best samples of the work to show future employers. While you’re at it, see if you can determine any tangible data of how you contributed to improving the company’s performance, views, ratings, and more.

Say ‘thank you’! Always remember to thank your supervisor and co-workers by email and in-person and extend a friendly invitation to keep the connections going. Politely ask for a performance review from your supervisor who can positively recommend you in the future. Don’t forget to connect on LinkedIn and actively build upon those relationships — you never know where they might lead!

If you landed a summer internship or experiential learning opportunity, don’t forget to register your experience on Handshake by logging on to your account, hitting “Experiences”, and entering your new internship experience. Increase the value of your Merrimack degree by adding your experience to your transcript if you’d like, while simultaneously highlighting yourself and your experience as an exemplary Merrimack student!

By reflecting on your internship experience, you’re able to understand your career preferences more clearly and determine what you wish to gain or avoid in future positions. Make your experience more than simply checking it off a to-do list before you graduate, and learn more about yourself and what you want out of a career.

Written by: Kerry Reynolds, Class of 2021

By O'Brien Center for Career Development
O'Brien Center for Career Development