How to get that return offer. Congratulations on the coveted… | by Ashley Chang | Jul, 2023


Congratulations on landing that coveted internship opportunity! But now what?

From a student’s perspective, the primary goal for an internship is to get that return offer so that you can come back as an intern or full-timer next summer. With five internships at five different tech companies under my belt, I will share my guidelines for receiving a return offer during an internship in this article.

Photo by Jason Goodman on Unsplash

Prepare beforehand

In the months leading up to your internship, it always helps to study up on what you will be working on during your internship. If you weren’t familiar with it after going through the interview process, research what the company does and the tools they use. If you have the information, it is best to reach out to your team members or your manager to get a grasp of the specifics of the tools you’ll be working on and the context of your problem. This is the best way to understand what you’ll be working on and prepare for those things.

Be Intentional

At the start of your internship, be sure to set your goals and intentions. Really think about the reasons why you are about to commit the following X number of months to this job. What do you want to get out of it? For example, you should understand what working in this particular industry, role, or company is like. Then, think of ways to achieve the things you set out to do. For example, if your goal is to identify the roles you want to work in, perhaps you could set up coffee chats with people on your team or in your company who work in different positions to get their perspectives. As an intern, you have more people and resources available to you than you would otherwise.

Practice Effective Communication

One of the fundamental aspects of a successful internship is maintaining open and proactive communication. Regularly update your supervisor and team members on your progress, ensuring they know the tasks you have completed and any challenges you have encountered. You can establish yourself as a reliable and responsible team member by demonstrating transparency and professionalism.

Be prepared to explain the reasoning behind the decisions you make during your internship. When presenting your ideas or suggestions, clearly communicate the thought process that led you to a particular conclusion. This communication demonstrates your critical thinking abilities, analytical skills, and ability to make informed decisions — an essential quality for a valuable team member.

There have been a few instances where I had to really communicate my opinions and feelings on decisions. At stand-up meetings, I learned to explain my work concisely and not to undermine my hard work, even though it’s easy to feel insignificant as an intern. Through disagreeing with people at my company, I had to learn to communicate my perspective effectively and professionally. In hindsight, I think communication skills — explaining yourself and advocating for yourself — are critical to securing the return offer.

Embrace Curiosity

As an intern, you have to maintain a learning and growth mindset. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, especially in the early stages of your internship. Clarifying any uncertainties will enable you to perform your tasks more efficiently, demonstrate your commitment to the role, and show your eagerness to grow and improve. Remember that as an intern, you are primarily there to learn!

Take Initiative

While fulfilling your assigned responsibilities, seize opportunities to contribute beyond your core tasks. Offer assistance to your teammates, participate actively in team projects, and demonstrate your willingness to take on additional responsibilities. By showcasing your initiative and versatility, you display your value as an intern and highlight your potential as a valuable long-term team member. For example, I ran a team happy hour for my mentor (who was supposed to run it but was busy because of on-call duties). I volunteered to run this happy hour even though I was just the intern because I felt like I could do it without having even been to one and thought it could be interesting. Later, I learned that my manager noted the initiative I took in volunteering to host this happy hour and wrote about it in several of my feedback notes.

Seek and Apply Feedback

Actively seek feedback from your supervisor and colleagues throughout your internship. When you receive feedback, carefully consider it and take the necessary steps to implement the suggestions. Show your dedication to personal and professional growth by constantly improving your skills and adapting to constructive criticism. This action demonstrates your commitment to self-improvement and ability to learn from mistakes.

Don’t Be Afraid to Participate Actively in Meetings

Although it may be intimidating, it is essential to make an effort to speak up and contribute during team meetings. Sharing your thoughts, ideas, and insights demonstrates your engagement and active involvement in the team’s projects. Your contributions showcase your knowledge and creativity and highlight your commitment to the team’s success. What initially stopped me from participating in team meetings was the fear of sounding stupid because I did not feel like I had the knowledge or context to contribute. However, it’s admirable to contribute any ideas you have while admitting the potential holes in your understanding. These meetings are meant to be discussions anyways, and they did hire you for your opinions.

Documentation Documentation Documentation!

Maintaining a record of your progress, feedback received, questions asked, and their respective answers is crucial for your personal growth and future discussions with your manager. Documentation helps you reflect on your achievements, identify areas for improvement, and have tangible evidence of your contributions. It also serves as a helpful reference when updating your resume or discussing your internship experience in interviews.

Honesty and Integrity

Honesty is critical when faced with challenges or unfamiliar situations. If you encounter something you don’t know, being transparent rather than pretending to be knowledgeable is essential. Admitting your limitations demonstrates your integrity, humility, and willingness to learn. By seeking guidance and support when needed, you show that you are proactive in finding solutions and continuously growing.

Have a Positive Attitude

Last but certainly not least, maintain a positive attitude and be pleasant to work with. Show enthusiasm, gratitude, and respect towards your colleagues and superiors. A positive work environment fosters collaboration, productivity, and camaraderie. By radiating positivity, you will leave a lasting impression and increase your chances of receiving a return offer.

Photo by Rémi Walle on Unsplash

“Take advantage of your intern title.”

What?? You may think that being an intern puts you at the bottom of the totem pole. You’re a small fish in a big sea. While that’s true, being the “intern” can be an advantage when trying to learn. As an intern, there is more leniency regarding standards of work. You’re allowed to make mistakes.

Additionally, it’s a lot easier to reach out to people you want to talk to. In almost all of my internships, I’ve had conversations with people high up in the company and even the CEOs because of my intern position. So don’t be afraid to reach out and introduce yourself as an intern who would love to chat!

“It pays to be opinionated around here.”

At one of my internships, one of my coworkers encouraged me to speak out based on their own experiences. They told me that having opinions and voicing them is how to succeed at this company. This quote really stuck around with me. I noticed how many of the people I admire or who are successful at work are very opinionated and vocal (while voicing their thoughts professionally). They can afford to be opinionated because they are not afraid to be wrong and simply admit it when they are wrong.

” What’s the point of this?”

During one of my intern presentations, someone blurted out “What is the point of this?”. Initially, I was a little shocked at such a blunt question. On the one hand, this question can be seen as attacking and rude, almost as if they were telling me that my project had no purpose. On the other hand, there was genuine curiosity behind the question, which made me realize that I might not have explained the purpose of these decisions well. Thankfully, I knew exactly why I made the decisions I did and had good answers to their questions. After defining “the point” of “this,” the person understood what I was doing, and I felt like explaining the point of all my decisions was more fruitful to the discussion than had that person not asked that question. This experience taught me two main work lessons: know why you’re doing things really well and don’t take things personally.

Securing a return offer from your internship requires tact. Following these tips, you can position yourself as an exceptional intern and increase your likelihood of receiving a return offer. At the same time, you are not in control of all of the decisions made, especially when they’re made due to economic fluctuations or from higher-ups. At the end of the day, you can only do your best with the things that you can control, and this list is a good start.



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