Define your goals for the summer. It probably look like this, in order of priorities:
- Get a full-time offer or an invitation back next summer.
- Learn a lot.
- Make connections and friends.
What else am I missing?
I think your priorities should look like this instead:
- Make connections with key influencers.
- Learn everything you can in all different areas of the organization.
The full-time offer is just a byproduct of positive feedback from key influencers. If you connect with and impress key influencers in the organization, you will get an offer. You need to spend most of your time finding and impressing these influencers. Your manager is of course a major influencer and yes, you must do good work on your assigned tasks to meet the bare minimum requirements of your internship.
But consider that the majority of other people you meet will actually have no idea what your work product looks like. They will judge you based on your behavior and other things they hear about you. Then you can actually create a very powerful positive feedback loop outside of the actual work function of your internship.
Build your network by hitting the ground running. Set a goal of one new coffee or lunch date per day. The cycle will look something like this:
- Ask people to coffee (your treat)
- Ask those people for advice
- Ask those people for other connections
- Follow up
Tracking and following up is the step even seasoned networkers forget or feel uncomfortable doing. Just make a simple Google Sheet with the contact and everything you know about them. As the summer goes on, reference your sheet often and follow-up by providing useful information to people based on what you know about them. When you come across an article that impacts the department of someone on your list, send it over with a quick note catching up.
Even better, find an opportunity to connect two people that can help each other. There are always information gaps between departments and teams in large organizations and a mobile, curious intern can step up. Say you meet a reserving actuary trying to build a claims model and you know something similar exists because you spoke with someone in predictive modeling a few weeks back. Reference your notes, send an email copying them both, and step aside.
As you build your network you'll start to catch on to who is a key influencer, either as someone who has your supervisor's ear or someone involved in the hiring decision-making process. This is a person you should spend a little more attention on. Ask her if she has any extra work you could help with in your down time, "if my manager approves". She may just keep that in her back pocket, but she will note that you made the offer. If you do get some work, run it by your manager as an opportunity to diversify your understanding of the business. As you can see, this plays nicely with your #2 priority, learning everything you can.
Increase your upward visibility while you diversify your knowledge base by approaching more senior employees in different departments, introducing yourself, and offering to assist with anything they need, even mundane tasks. Tread somewhat carefully, because you don't want to undermine your manager by neglecting any assigned work or overcommitting yourself, but if you have the spare time, don't sit idly. By simply not being afraid to approach more senior employees, you will stand out even amongst some full-time employees. If you end up crossing some unspoken line by approaching someone too senior, you can always play the intern card. You didn't know better. You're just trying to help.
If you apply this system over the summer, you will create fans around the organization that will be happy to send up positive feedback to the decision makers, and you will arm yourself tons of transferrable knowledge for your first full-time job.
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