Although it seems a little early to think about your summer experience, this is actually the perfect time. In the coming weeks you'll focus on preparing for finals and moving out of the dorm. All of those things will happen before you know it. You'll look up in a few weeks and it'll be time for your summer experience.
No matter what you are doing this summer, it's important to make the most of it. Allow me to lay out for you some things to keep in the back of your mind about your summer internship/research/volunteer experience before it happens. There are things you can do as a student that can establish you as an engaged professional with your employer. Your summer experience isn’t only about what you get out of it. It’s also about what you contribute to a project and organization as well as establishing relationships.
Your engagement begins well before the first formal day of employment. Showing up on time ready to work is important. Trust me, the way in which you prepare for your summer position is important, too. Here are some suggestions that you can take or leave in regard to being a summer rock star. Start by verifying the dates of employment now so that you will have adequate time to find housing, arrange your travel, etc. Even better, set yourself apart from your peers by sending an email to your supervisor introducing yourself. While you’re sending emails, send one to human resources to confirm the company/program dress code. If that feels like too much for you, ask your supervisor that during your “Looking forward to the job” email exchange. People base a lot on appearance and you don’t want your attire to distract from or undermine your awesomeness.
There are so many other ways in which you can maximize your summer experience once you’re on the job. They include your approach to each project, how you carry yourself when you’re there, and how you build relationships among your team and supervisor(s). For example, when you get to your summer gig, focus on learning. View each task as an opportunity to learn, recognizing that your responsibilities may not change the world, but are still integral to the operation. At the very least, think about how it solidifies the theory and content you’ve learned to that point. Your summer experience is also a great time to determine whether your major, or potions of it, are truly for you.
Some students make the mistake of not remaining fully engaged when/if they determine they won’t pursue a post-graduation job with their summer employer. Doesn’t matter if you don’t want to work there, right? Wrong. Not only do you want to leave a good impression and be able to call on this supervisor for future reference, you also don’t know who knows whom. Professional circles are a lot smaller than we sometimes realize and a bad reputation can spread quickly. Beyond that, it’s about your follow through and how well you are able to keep a positive attitude and strong work ethic when working on things to which you have no long-term commitment. You are here to learn in several areas. Self-awareness is one of them.
None of these things may seem like rocket science to you, but trust me when I tell you that too many students don’t think about these things when going through their summer experience. Start strong and stay strong. What you learn during your summer experience goes far beyond the professional projects you have. Take it all in and grow – personally, socially, and professionally. That’s really what this is all about.