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The Guide To Making The Most Out Of Your Paid Summer Internship

From saving your money to landing a job in the end.

by Jessica Estrada
Originally Published: 
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If you're a college student who’s landed a paid summer internship, congrats! The next step is crushing said internship. How? There are a few tips and tricks to know on how to get the most value out of a paid summer internship in terms of career development, networking opportunities, and maximizing your money. To help with this, Elite Daily tapped the experts: Lauren Berger, a career and internship expert and founder of Intern Queen and Career Queen, and financial expert Tori Dunlap of Her First $100K. Below, find seven ways to make the most out of your paid summer internship.

Ask To Be Involved

Want to participate more? It’s easy. “The more a student can immerse themselves in the company, its culture, its departments, and its people, the more they will get out of the experience,” Berger says. The trick with this, she notes, is not to wait to be asked but instead ask to be involved, whether it’s asking to sit in on meetings and observe or asking if you can work on various projects with different teams.

Ask For Context & Feedback

It’s also a good practice to ask for context around any assignment. “Mistakes are made when interns — or anyone, really — are asked to do an assignment but don’t understand the goal of the work,” Berger says. “Asking simple questions like ‘Can I ask what the goal of the assignment is?’ can really help ensure you are on the right track.”

Once a project is wrapped or at different milestones throughout the internship, Berger also recommends asking for feedback. “When you are given feedback, listen to it, consider it, and put it into action,” she says. “Showing that you can turn a weakness into a strength is powerful.”

Set Up Meetings

A big part of making the most out of an internship is the skills you develop and the people you connect with, which is why Berger emphasizes the importance of networking. To do this, she suggests setting up 15- to 30-minute meetings with different team members or folks from other departments to help build relationships and ask if they need help with anything.

Take Advantage Of Nonmonetary Value

Your internship paycheck is just one way to get “paid” for an internship. Dunlap says there are other nonmonetary ways to gain value from the experience. For example, the company may offer a free team lunch every week, which is one less meal you have to pay for yourself. Other forms of value include college credit, developmental opportunities like training and certifications, or letters of recommendation. And most importantly, view everything as a learning opportunity. “Just be a little sponge and soak it all in,” Dunlap says. You’ll gain so much value from that simple mindset shift.

Find A Balance Between Spending & Saving

Personal finance is personal, so Dunlap says there isn’t a magic percentage of how much of your internship paycheck you should spend and how much to save. A good balance will feel sticky. “You should be saving enough money where you can’t afford everything that you want from a discretionary standpoint,” Dunlap says. “But you can also still have fun and enjoy your life.”

Once you figure out how much you can save, Dunlap recommends allocating those funds to first saving up an emergency fund (at least three months of living expenses) and then paying off any high-interest debt. Once those are covered, she notes this is an excellent time to start chipping away at student loans since interest has likely yet to kick in. That said, Dunlap understands that some students may be in survival mode during college years, meaning there isn’t a lot or any money left to save after expenses, and that’s OK too.

Practice Value-Based Spending

Furthermore, Dunlap encourages practicing mindfulness when it comes to spending by adopting a value-based mindset. That looks like allowing yourself to spend your discretionary money on things you enjoy and value and cutting back on other areas that aren’t as important to you. For instance, you may value spending the majority of your discretionary funds on traveling and eating out and therefore have a smaller budget for other life areas such as clothing shopping.

Make It Clear You Want A Job

Lastly, if landing a job at the company you’re interning at is your goal, Berger strongly advises communicating that. Even if there aren’t any openings, you never know what opportunities may become available. Or better yet, create your own opportunity. For instance, Berger recalls an intern who put together a presentation on their last day explaining why they should be chosen for an upcoming paid role. In other words, don’t be afraid to make it clear that you’d like to continue working there, and it doesn’t hurt to leave a memorable last impression.

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