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Your Summer Internship: The Ultimate Test Drive

Written by Miles Senior

Imagine that the car you bought during high school has finally given up. Repairing the countless problems cost much more than the car is worth, so you decide that it is finally time to buy a new one. Now imagine that once you arrive at the dealership, you close your eyes, point your finger and say, “I’ll take that one!” This scenario, of course, seems ridiculous because in most cases potential buyers will test drive a vehicle before they purchase it. Internships can be viewed much like test driving a new car. It is a time when both the intern and employer gauge one another before making a long term commitment.

Going for a Spin

According to an article by USA Today, internship experience has become invaluable to students because it allows you to build a network, work in a professional environment, and create potential job opportunities post-graduation. While all of this is important, through an internship, you also get the unique opportunity to explore the different features of the company that you are interning for. While industry standards and best practices among companies may be similar, beneath the surface, each company is uniquely different. These features are known as the company’s corporate culture. A company’s culture is reflected in its dress code, business hours, employee benefits, and overall office environment. Corporate culture has a direct impact on your working experience and these features should be kept in mind over the course of your internship.

Reflect On Your Drive

By being truly immersed in an organization you are able to gain clarity on your strengths, weaknesses, and interests. Equally important, you can also learn what you do not enjoy doing. After your internship, spend time reflecting on your experience and consider the pros and cons of the company.

Some of the main features you should reflect on are:

  • Corporate Culture

Make sure that you are a good “fit” in the company and can see yourself working there full-time.

  • Benefits

Find out what type of benefits the company offers. Retirement packages, employee discounts, and tuition reimbursement are among the most popular.

  • Work Life Balance

Ask full-time employees about their work life balance. This will give you multiple perspectives on the typical work load full time employees may carry.

  • Colleagues

You will spend a lot of time with your colleagues so it is important that you feel comfortable and welcomed around them.

An Extended Interview

For most employers, their internship program serves as a tool to source top talent for full-time positions. A recent Forbes article suggests that the most successful interns view their internship not as a summer job but a 10 to 12 week interview. Over the course of the internship, your employer and colleagues will “test drive” you as well. They will observe how well you function in the role and the quality of your work, to determine whether you would be a valuable asset to the team. Although this can be nerve-wracking, remember that your employer selected you for a reason, now is your time to shine. Continue to make a great impression by being sure to arrive at work on time, dress appropriately, complete all assignments well, and be actively engaged. By showcasing your value to the organization, employers will not want to see you go.

Enjoy the Experience

When purchasing a new car, you should always test drive it before making your final decision. View your internship the same way. Use this opportunity not only to gain work experience but to truly explore all that a company has to offer. Remember that you are being test driven as well. Continue to make a great impression and show your value by always putting your best foot forward. Your summer internship is the ultimate career test drive, have fun and enjoy the ride!


The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily the views of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland or the Federal Reserve System.

1 Comment

  • Sandi Horvath August 7, 2017 Reply

    Wonderfully put and wonderfully written, Miles!

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