Congratulations! You’re almost done with your internship. While fetching coffee and making copies may have been a drag sometimes, you may find yourself feeling a little sad that you’re leaving your cozy cubicle next to all of your fabulous intern friends.
One of the best things about summer internships is the people you meet, particularly the other collegiette interns with whom you worked. Just because your internship is ending doesn’t mean that your friendships with fellow interns have to end as well! Staying connected with your fellow interns can help build your professional network, and you never know how your paths might cross again later on in your careers. Check out HC’s tips for how to stay in touch with your intern buddies while maintaining the balance between professional and friendly.
Why it’s so important to stay connected
While you might want to keep in touch with your fellow interns just because they’re super cool people, there are a lot of benefits to staying connected to peers you met during an internship.
Ultimately, one of your biggest assets as a young professional is your growing network. The more people you can add to that network, the better.
“That intern that you worked with today could be the hiring manager or CEO of a company you would like to work for in the future,” says Neal Schaffer, author of Maximize Your Social and founder of Maximize Social Business. “You never know where you’ll end up, and we never know how our paths might cross.”
Vicki Salemi, career coach and author of Big Career in the Big City, says, “Networking is key to your future. At the end of the day, all we really have are relationships. Not networking and not keeping those relationships alive is not an option.”
Making lifelong friends might be a pleasant surprise from your college summer internship, but staying connected to them professionally can only help you in the long run!
Use Twitter and Facebook for casual conversation
With Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, texting, emailing and more, there are countless ways to stay in touch with people. While it’s awesome that we have so much technology at our fingertips, sometimes it’s hard to decide what the best form of communication is when balancing that professional yet friendly relationship.
According to Salemi, the type of communication you choose should depend on your purpose for reaching out. “If you just want to say hello, then definitely tweet them or Facebook chat them from time to time,” Salemi says. “If you want a more meaningful conversation [i.e., relating to job opportunities or careers], ask if they’re available for a phone call or reach out via email.”
Katie Naymon, a senior at Johns Hopkins University, stayed in touch with her intern friends from last summer with GroupMe a group-text smartphone app. It allows you to send texts to large groups of people as well as share photos and videos. “We also made a Facebook group,” Naymon says. “It’s been over a year, but we still regularly post articles and comment on things that the group would find interesting.”
Schaffer also recommends social media for casual conversation. “Since we spend so much time looking at our News Feed on Facebook, it’s a great place for interns to naturally stay in touch,” he says. “Facebook is an easy way to share parts of your personal life using various types of media, [like pictures and links].”
Keep it personal and casual on social media when keeping in touch with your fellow interns. Share photos from your family vacation, tweet about your favorite Starbucks drink or post funny articles from your favorite websites (like Her Campus!).
Use LinkedIn to make professional connections
Besides using Facebook and Twitter, most collegiettes also have LinkedIn accounts, which allow you to stay in touch with a messaging feature. It looks similar to your email inbox, but you can also extend and accept invitations to LinkedIn groups.
You can also use your LinkedIn account to improve each one another’s profiles by endorsing the skills of your fellow interns. On your LinkedIn profile, there’s a section where you can add any skills you have. If someone visits your profile (like your fellow intern friends!), he or she can endorse those skills. The more endorsements you get, the more credible your skills are.
Additionally, using LinkedIn with your fellow interns can help you make other connections. There’s a feature on the site that allows you to view other users’ connections, so if you see that your intern friend is connected to an employer or company you’re interested in, you can ask him or her to introduce you!
“On LinkedIn, it’s easy to see who [your friends are] connected with in their network,” Schaffer says. “Or, in an advanced people search, they can end up being the person connecting you to second or third connections. You open up all these secret connections you didn’t know you had!”
While Facebook and Twitter are great ways to share parts of your personal life, LinkedIn is an easy way to make more professional connections.
When communicating online, keep it classy
While social media seems like the easiest way to stay connected with fellow interns, you should always be conscious about keeping it professional. Definitely stay open and friendly on social media sites, but it’s probably better to untag those pictures of yourself from that frat party that happened the other night.
“In one of my books, I talk about creating a ‘public persona,’” Schaffer explains. “That means if you open your Facebook or Twitter page to the entire public, you wouldn’t find any material that would embarrass you or prevent you from getting a job.”
Avoid posting or talking about potentially controversial topics, like politics or religion. If these topics are part of your field or major, keep the conversation professional and avoid starting any heated debates online.
Schaffer says a good rule of thumb is to imagine yourself going to a networking event where you don’t know anyone. What would you talk about there? Things that you would talk about during a professional networking event are also fair game on social media.
“Always ask yourself if you would want that tweet or message on the cover of the Wall Street Journal,” Salemi says. “Keep everything professional … avoid swearing. You can keep things light and friendly and let your personality shine while also keeping it professional.”
Be mindful of your privacy settings and the type of content you put up on your social media pages. Even though you may have gotten close to your fellow interns and consider them good friends, it’s still important to keep it professional online.
So, what should you talk about?
During your internship, it was probably really easy to relate to other interns, considering you had the same schedules, worked on the same projects and were advised by the same boss. But once you’re all back to your respective lives at school, sometimes it’s hard to find things in common. Easy conversation starters could be things about college (you both have that in common!), new internship opportunities (how you met in the first place) or general getting-to-know-them questions (do you actually know what their favorite foods are?).
“You can ask if they have a current internship and what it’s like, what they’re learning in school or how their semester is going,” Salemi says. “Or maybe your professor touched upon something you learned during your internship, and you can mention that when you’re reaching out.”
It’s important to keep your conversations natural, but it’s okay if they involve topics about your shared internship or industry. “If you find an article about how to write a good resume or something about your industry, share it with them,” Schaffer says. “Those are good topics of conversation because that’s the common bond that brought you together in the first place.”
Also, don’t underestimate the power of a like or short comment on social media. “Simply liking updates on Facebook or LinkedIn will keep you on the top of their mind but are minimal efforts,” Salemi says.
Some things to avoid talking about include questions about their income at their new internship, personal questions about their love life (depending on how close you are) or bragging about your new position if they’re still unemployed.
Whenever you’re reaching out, just remember to be natural and friendly. When in doubt, relate back to your shared internship, because you’ll always have that in common!
When you should reach out
While there’s no concrete rule for when you should send your fellow interns an email or post on their Facebook timelines, some times of the school year are better than others.
“Collegiettes are extremely busy, but times other than midterms or finals, when you’re preoccupied, is probably a good time,” Salemi says. “Generally, every month or two is good.”
Another natural time to reach out to your fellow interns is when you start to think about your next job or internship. Schaffer recommends that you reach out to your intern friends as part of your job search. “Contact them if you have an interview with a company they might know about, or maybe when you’ll be in town [to meet with a potential employer],” Schaffer says. “Or maybe there’s a big networking event in a city you’re both close to, and you can invite them to join you!”
You don’t need to be tweeting at them every other day, but you also shouldn’t let six months of silence go by, either. Reaching out once a month is a good rule of thumb. It shows that you’re interested in staying connected, but it’s not overwhelming.
Working side-by-side with other awesome interns can truly make a summer internship great. With these tips in mind, it can be super easy to keep those friendships strong and stay connected with your fellow interns all year long!