The internship has ended, you’re back on campus and classes have begun — now what? The transition can be a challenge, but it’s crucial when it comes to bridging the gap between relationships formed during the internship and maintaining your network.
I chatted with Lori Crabtree, senior communications specialist at Southwest Airlines, about the best ways to keep in touch with those you worked with and met during your internship.
“Whether it be through Facebook, LinkedIn, or other social media sites, staying connected with former interns is much easier these days,” she said. “It inherently keeps those who were high performers more top-of-mind and keeps the lines of communication open. These connections can lead to future work opportunities and further networking.”
To put those things into action, you should be thinking about the people you’ve added to your network and what those relationships are like. There are multiple outlets and approaches, and they aren’t one-size-fits all.
Let’s break down the options:
Social media is a blessing and a curse. However, when it comes to your closer relationships, it’s a great tool for staying up-to-date with your network in a professional and personal way.
Don’t Facebook friend everyone you interacted with, but do friend those key people who know you best. Facebook is also a great place for them to keep up with any on-campus activities, major life events and blogs/projects you’re involved with (#humblebrags). Just be sure your page is appropriate for any colleague to find before you friend them.
Twitter is a little friendlier — give them a follow and be an engaged follower. Read links or company news he or she might share and send a quick response. It only takes 140 characters to share your thoughts and say “hello.”
LinkedIn is a great platform for maintaining professional contacts. It’s more personal than a generic human resources website profile and enables you to stay updated on your network’s career moves and vice versa. This is where you can freely add anyone you worked and networked with throughout the summer. Make sure your page is updated with your role from the summer, so they are able to see your key takeaways and contributions.
Key tip: send a personalized note with each LinkedIn Connect invite you send.
It seems elementary, but a quick email check-in every now and then does wonders. Don’t reach out weekly — professionals are busy — but once or twice a semester is often enough to stay fresh in their minds and continue the relationship.
Emails are traditional, but also enable you to show that a) you remember them and b) you’re an active student. A “happy holidays” email or link to an interesting article is also a nice way to show you’re thinking of them and the industry without begging them to hire you after graduation.
“Depending on the nature of the relationship, occasional phone calls are the best method to both hear and share updates, professional and personal, with former colleagues, interns or supervisor,” Crabtree said.
Calls are great when it comes to more mentor-like relationships where there are a lot of questions and ideas you have that otherwise would result in a long email. Always schedule these in advance via text or email so you aren’t cutting into their schedule unannounced.
A more obvious — but oddly less-used — approach is to visit when possible. Whether it’s coffee or a catch-up lunch with your old team, it’s a nice, informal way to remind your network about your interpersonal skills and update them with stories from your semester and latest professional achievements.
It’s all about maintaining the relationships you have. Think carefully about how you will reach out and make sure that you do. Don’t be afraid to make an excel sheet with different contacts that tracks how and when you reached out to your network. Better safe than sorry, right?
Sarah Dougherty is the 2016–2017 vice president of career services and a senior at the University of Alabama. Follow her on Twitter @sarahgdougherty.