Internship Season: 7 Tips To Make Your Summer Gig A Full-Time Job

by Erica Tausch
Paramount Pictures

For two summers during college, I had the opportunity to intern at the New York Stock Exchange.

Internships are a great way to learn about your future career interests (and the things you're absolutely not interested in doing), but more importantly, they teach you how to navigate the business world.

They teach you life lessons — different ones from the ones you get in the classroom.

After spending six months at one of the most well-known and busiest financial hubs of the world, I came up with seven pieces of internship advice for all you young pups looking to quickly evolve into the next Wolf of Wall Street:

1. Don't be afraid to take calculated risks.

After one of the corporate leaders at the New York Stock Exchange spoke at an intern event, I wrote him a thank you note and purchased him a pound of my favorite coffee to go with it.

He'd mentioned having a serious caffeine addiction during his lecture.

I added an extra touch of personality to the note by taping a package of gum inside saying, “For the coffee breath.”

As I delivered the gift to his secretary on a floor of the building dedicated solely to him, my hands were shaking from the nerves.

As his personal security regime combed the package for harmful substances and other, hazardous materials, I thought I'd made a huge mistake, but it paid off.

In addition to receiving an email from him just a few hours later, this calculated risk opened the door to several one-on-one meetings with him. By the end of the summer, he'd agreed to be one of the references on my résumé.

Don't be afraid to contact one of the more senior employees or corporate officers at the company you're interning for.

As long as you're professional and respectful, it's extremely rare people will react negatively to a request for advice, mentorship or an opportunity to inquire about his or her career history or company background.

Almost everyone who's anyone has been in your shoes, and most of them are more than happy to assist you in any way possible.

2. Participate in every single activity, event, workshop, lecture and opportunity the company has to offer.

When I worked at the NYSE, I let no opportunity to network and meet other employees pass me by.

I attended lectures about everything under the sun, joined the stair-climbing workout group (which exercised by walking or running up and down the many steps of the NYSE during lunch breaks), took a yoga class in an empty office room on the eighth floor and shelled out $300 just to attend a fundraising event I knew all of the corporate leaders would attend.

You cannot underestimate the power of meeting and forming relationships with as many people as possible during an internship.

Networking is crucial to opening doors for you, and your zest for taking advantage of everything your company has to offer speaks to your superiors.

3. Never underestimate the power of a thank you note.

I expanded on the popular advice many career gurus give as it pertains to writing thank you notes after important interviews, meetings, etc.

At all times, I ensured I was equipped with a package of professional, blank thank you cards. I was always ready to write one if someone above me asked for a favor, took time to meet with me or something similar.

No matter his or her rank or seniority at the company, these individuals are still human beings with real emotions and memories.

They're far more likely to remember you and your name after receiving something thoughtful like a thank you note.

4. Be afraid of Thursday Intern Happy Hour. Be very afraid.

As many of my fellow New Yorkers can attest, when 5 pm hits on a Friday in NYC, there's a great exodus from the island of Manhattan to various surrounding communities, towns and cities.

Therein lies the appeal and widespread popularity of Thursday night Happy Hour.

I won't lie — it's super fun to finally get a chance to kick back and interact with your fellow interns over a few (okay, maybe a plethora of) beers on Stone Street or in FiDi.

There is, however, a general equation to keep in mind for the aftermath of Thursday night debauchery: The amount of alcohol you consume on Thursday (or any other weekday) night is inversely proportional to how good you feel on Friday at 8 am.

Just remember that generally, the more fun you have with alcoholic beverages on Thursday night, the less fun you'll have sitting at your desk in last night's business clothes on Friday.

5. Make friends with everyone — even the maintenance staff.

At the risk of sounding like a cheesy Disney princess, I'll go ahead and say this might be a good overall life-lesson about treating everyone with genuine kindness.

Every morning, I'd have to go through police-guarded metal detectors in order to get to my office at the NYSE.

In addition to introducing myself to the maintenance staff, I made a point to learn the names of all the police officers who worked there.

It wasn't something I did to “get something” in return; I've just been raised to treat everyone equally and with kindness.

While entering the building after having a networking lunch with a senior-level employee, however, it truly impressed her that each and every guard at the door knew my name.

Your potential future boss will want to know you have good social skills and you're a good person, too.

Even if he or she never discovers you've branched out and made friends with almost everyone, you'll still make some unexpected and awesome friends.

They'll also probably teach you things about where you work that you'd never learn in the office.

6. Get a letter of recommendation before your internship ends.

For any young professional, I'd recommend always requesting a letter of recommendation in person.

Not only is it more difficult for your boss to say no to your face, but it also helps ensure the letter will be a glowing representation of you.

The reason I recommend interns secure a recommendation before the internship ends is due to a simple principle: Out of sight, out of mind.

No matter how memorable your smile was or how happy the whole office was when you surprised them with donuts one Friday morning, as soon as your time with the company comes to an end, the memory of you, your hard work and even the donuts will immediately start to fade from your boss's mind.

Get a reference letter during your internship before that happens.

7. Stay in touch and remember significant, specific details about the people you network with.

As I mentioned above, your boss's memory of you fades as soon as you leave the company, and it's highly unlikely he or she will put in the legwork to stay in touch — that's your job.

An easy way to stay fresh in the mind of both your boss and the important individuals you networked with during your internship is to send warm, professional “check in” emails to them every six months or so.

The more personalized and intriguing these emails are, the more memorable they become to that individual.

It's most effective if you're able to recall something this person mentioned about his or her life.

Remember that time your boss mentioned playing bass for a band he and his friends started in his garage?

Ask him how that's going and if you can hear their latest song.

Was the woman you had a networking lunch with one afternoon really into planting flowers? Send her a link to an article about gardening you think she might enjoy.

The key here is to be genuine and to show them you really did take an interest in their lives and what they said.

They'll greatly appreciate the fact that you remembered such minute details, and the next time a job position opens up, perhaps you'll be on the forefront of their minds.

I hope you've learned something useful, young grasshoppers.

There's no better time than during an internship to shed that puppy fur and become the corporate wolf you've always longed to be.

A friendly, genuine, well-written, thank-you-card-bearing wolf, that is.