College Bound: 3 Tangible Ways to Get the Most of Your Summer Internship or Job


Summer jobs and internships are a great way to make money and narrow down your career path. If you’re working at a nursing home, maybe you’ll learn that you want to study social work when you get to college. If you’re an intern at a startup, maybe you’ll realize you want to study marketing instead of biology. Either way, you definitely don’t want to go through your internship without getting anything out of it besides a paycheck

To get you started, here are our tips for making the most out of your summer internship or job.

1. Connect with coworkers and mentors

  • Ask a lot of questions and practice active listening. People will take notice if you make a genuine effort to get to know them. 

  • Find a mentor. If you’re in an internship in your related field and there’s a specific role you’re interested in, reach out to the person in that role and find out how they got where they are today. If you’re not sure where to start, ask your supervisor for suggestions. Let them know you’re interested in getting coffee with others to learn more about different career paths and they’ll be glad to connect you with their colleagues.

  • Talk to your coworkers and really get to know them on a personal level. You never know where a connection could lead. The more friends and connections you make, the more resources down the line. If you’re considering a field in finance and your coworker mentions that her mom is in accounting, see if she’d be willing to connect you so you can learn more about the industry. 


2. Write down at least 3 things you would like to learn

Whether you’re waiting tables or entering Excel data all day, every role provides you the opportunity to learn something. These can be hard skills, like learning how to do VLOOKUP in Excel, improving your Spanish skills, or conquering Photoshop. Or, these can be soft skills, like teamwork, communication, and problem-solving. 

What skills can you walk away with by the end of this summer? Write them down or type them in your notes app on your phone. When you’re working, days pass slowly and weeks go fast. You’ll set yourself up for growth if you approach your job or internship with intention to meet your goals. 

3. Prepare for your college major 

Take the opportunity to discover your likes, dislikes, and skills. Find the common tasks and responsibilities you enjoy and use those as your guide. If you find you enjoy designing a flyer for your office, consider a career in design or marketing. If you intern in a hospital and find out you can’t stand the sight of blood, maybe consider shifting to a field that puts your interpersonal skills to use. 



BONUS TIPS: If you’re not enjoying your summer internship or job 

You’ll hear some people say that there’s as much value in knowing what you want to do as there is knowing what you don’t want to do. It’s easy for the more seasoned professionals and mentors in your life to encourage you-- to see the big picture and assure you that hating a job is as impactful as loving one. Of course, that doesn’t make things easier on you. When you’re in the thick of things and wondering if you should quit, try to remember these tips:

1. Your difficult experiences can be your motivation one day. 

Does the thought of putting on your apron make you cringe? Does smiling through another meeting with your boss make you want to turn around and run right back to high school? Don’t quit. Not every experience is going to be perfect. When your wrist hurts from scooping ice cream or you feel your mental energy draining at the 2 o’clock slump, remind yourself this isn’t forever. 

Next semester, when you don’t feel motivated to study for your Chemistry exam, allow the small voice in the back of your mind to remind you of your ice cream scooping wrist. You’re going to college to improve your future. Every exam (and every extra scoop and every tough meeting) will bring you closer to that future.   

It sounds counterintuitive, but leveraging your negative experiences as motivation will help you keep momentum in your studies as you go forward. 

2. Bring your focus back to what you’re learning. 

One day, you’ll be interviewing for your dream job, and they’ll ask you how you manage stress, or whether you work well under pressure, or they’ll ask for an example of how you provide the best customer experience.  

If your boss is short with you, smile with patience and challenge yourself to be grateful for the chance to learn how to work under pressure.  If a customer is rude to you, remember that one day you’ll talk about how you learned to apologize and above all else listen and engage with your customers to understand them and support them fully. When this summer experience is a line or two on your resume, all of the hard parts will be worth it. 


Maximize your time.

Use these tips to maximize your time this summer. Summer jobs and internships are your opportunity to learn from your supervisors, colleagues, and customer interactions in a way that prepares you for your next professional experience. Stay positive and enjoy your summer!