what should I say/ask as I leave my internship?

A reader writes:

I wrote to you about whether or not to extend my internship back in April (from the Should I Extend My Internship post) and thought I could share with you an update. After much pondering about weighing the pros and cons of doing so, I decided to go ahead and extend my internship. Yes, same internship, same manager too. I am just about to wrap up my internship and as I reflect back on whether or not it was a good choice, I believe that it was. I took the advice you gave about working on long-term projects and it did help a lot. I was able to do several projects on my own without a whole lot of assistance from my manager.

The only thing that gave me second thoughts about it was that I did feel as if I stuck around for too long. It’s almost been a year now with the extension. I know I will not get a job offer from this organization due to a lot of budget cutbacks. One other thing, I didn’t really have much of a mentor-mentee relationship with my manager as I had before. There were a few things I wanted my manager/mentor’s advice on about my career goals, but I guess I just didn’t feel comfortable approaching my mentor for advice anymore or maybe it was just the lack of time issue.

But overall despite the time issue, I think my manager is still one of the greatest mentors I’ve had. I did get a thank you gift and letter. I also do plan on staying in touch. Any advice on saying goodbye or what would be good questions or topics to say for that “final conversation?”

Yes! This is a really great opportunity to get feedback that can help you develop professionally. I’d ask things like:

* Do you have thoughts on where I did especially well and what things I should focus on improving in? (If you don’t get a real answer to the last part of this when you first ask it, reiterate that you truly want to know. Some people get more honest when you make it clear you’re not going to be offended. If she still won’t tell you, phrase it this way: “If you could wave a magic wand over my head and tweak something about my habits or skills or approach, what would it be?”)

* What kind of role do you think I’d really excel in?

* Can you think of anyone in your network who might be good for me to connect with for future openings?

Also, tell her what you got out of the experience and why it was valuable to you. In particular, tell her what a great mentor she was, and why. People don’t say this sort of thing enough — often because they think the person is too important or advanced in their career to care — but people generally love hearing it. Even important and prominent people love hearing it. Say it!

(And not only is it a nice thing to do — which is reason enough — but it will also likely make her more invested in your professional future, or at least more willing to help you if the opportunity arises. People like people who like them.)

Anyone else have suggestions?

{ 5 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    You may also want to ask if s/he is willing to serve as a reference for you. If you are applying to grad school and plan on asking this manager to write you a recommendation, now would be a good time to mention it, since your accomplishments will be most fresh in her mind.

  2. Charles*

    "I did get a thank you gift and letter"

    Do you mean that you got a thank you gift and letter (is it a letter of recommendation?) FROM your Mentor or that you got a gift and thank you letter to GIVE to your mentor?

    If your answer is the former, then you should consider doing the latter. It doesn't have to be much (or expensive); but, something that shows that you very much appreciate what your mentor has done (especially given the extension).

  3. Jamie*

    I think it's great advice to make sure to tell her she was a great mentor.

    I did this once, not an internship – but for a former boss.

    When I was between jobs several years ago I made the mistake of applying only to jobs for which I met all the listed criteria 100% – and got no where. Then I thought about a former boss who was truly a mentor to me and out of frustration I started applying to jobs he would have hired me for which were at a much higher level.

    I figured he was brilliant and thought highly of me so I changed my mindset. I applied for five jobs that day, got three interviews – one of which is my current position which I love.

    So even though I felt weird about it I sent him an email after I made director at my new place – thanking him for the mentoring and telling him how he inadvertently played a huge role in my confidence to apply for jobs outside of my comfort zone.

    We keep in touch every so often and he usually mentions how he saved that email. It meant a lot to him that he had such a positive impact.

    It was really out of character for me, I don't do personal correspondence well – but it goes to show that everyone, no matter how high on the food chain, appreciates sincere gratitude.

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