So You Interned. Now what?

Time to get back to work

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Your summer internship just ended. You did it!

Now, get back to work.

The truth is, interning was the easy part. You must now not only find ways to apply what you've learned, but also figure out how to stay top-of-mind with your now-former colleagues.

With the excitement of a new school year, it can be all too easy to put the proverbial check mark next to "Summer Internship" on your cosmic to-do list and move on to new adventures. The thing is, the greatest value you can glean from an internship is the connections you make... and connections need attention and nurturing. You'll be surprised how much of an impact a strong network will have on your career, and -- in my experience -- influence and support can appear when you need it the most, IF you work for it.

That means you must develop, nurture and grow your relationships with these contacts, finding ways to impress them and remind them what you can bring to the table.That requires time and energy, but it's incredibly important, because business is personal.How personal? Nearly 40% of hires that my company made last year were the result of an employee referral. These folks were introduced to MediaCom by someone whom the company already trusts.Wouldn't it be nice to have someone advocating on your behalf?

Now is the perfect time to reflect on your internship and think through those you met and the things you learned that can help you grow and achieve more.The following five actions are what you need to do to make sure an internship becomes something other than just a memory:

Expand and develop your network.If you haven't done so already, get on LinkedIn and connect with everyone you worked with this summer.Increase your acceptance rate by sending thoughtful, individualized invites.

Take what you learned and apply it. How? You could create a summary of your experience, drop it into PowerPoint and share it with your network. Few people will take the time to do this, but it will enhance the impression you make on everyone. Send it to your professors and see if there's a way to share your experience with others.

Ask your summer employer to extend your internship. If you attend school nearby, you could spend a day or two each week in the office. Technology also makes it easy for you to continue to help the company remotely.

Evaluate your experience. Getting an advertising internship may have sounded like a great idea, but what if it didn't meet your expectations? Are there other departments in the company you could explore? Or is the industry all wrong for you? Whatever the case, remember that an internship is a low-impact way for you to try something new, and for the company to get to know you in a low-risk setting. Assess what you learned, and use it to help determine the next right career move.

Most importantly: stay in touch. Continue the momentum of your internship by developing a contact plan. At a minimum, there are three people you should stay in touch with: your manager, the best friend you made in the program and the HR person who ran the program. Your contact plan can be simple: a note of thanks within 30 days of the end of the internship, an e-mail each semester until graduation, a visit (if possible) during your last semester in school and again when you are ready to apply for a full-time job.

Of course, don't forget to update your resume and LinkedIn profile, and join any relevant company or alumni groups on LinkedIn. Your goal is to maximize your personal ROI on the experience. All it takes is some planning and a little bit of sincerity.

Now get to work.

About the Author

Ed Frankel is partner-director of U.S. talent acquisition for MediaCom, leading all recruiting efforts across MediaCom's offices in New York, Chicago, Ann Arbor and Los Angeles. Ed currently manages a team of recruiters to discover and deliver the top industry talent across all MediaCom positions. He also oversees all recruiting efforts, including the employee referral program, alumni networking, career fair involvement and campus outreach. Ed graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in political science.

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