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Every year in college, I had an internship. These short-term job opportunities provided first-hand insight on what I liked and loathed about a particular job or industry.

Following graduation, I received a full-time offer with the financial services company I interned with. However, during my summer internship, I discovered financial services was not my passion. The thought of forgoing my daylight hours for the next two years terrified me.

While I didn’t accept the offer, my internships provided valuable learning experiences and practical applications for interacting successfully in a professional environment. Regardless of where you’re at in the summer experience, consider these tips to make the most of your summer internship:

Build Your Professional Brand
Dress the part: in person, and online. These days your social networking presence is probably the first thing a potential employer looks for when considering you, so think about what you’re posting and sharing on the web. It’s also one of the best ways to put your ‘best foot forward’ so consider a website or interactive resume to showcase your skills and talents.

Get Organized.
Make a list of goals you’d like to accomplish, keep track of your daily tasks, carry a notebook with you for contact information and other relevant, on-the-job insights. Be proactive in your work approach and ask for constant feedback from managers and colleagues throughout the summer.

Build Meaningful Relationships.
If you haven’t already identified alumni working where you are, reach out to your college’s career services guru for a lead. College alumni are usually more than willing to provide sound advice and networking opportunities.

Next, form the best relationships you can with your team and take the time to learn what interests your colleagues. Make a strong effort to meet the managers and senior-level executives in the company, but don’t ignore the less experienced or junior employees: they often provide feedback to managers about your communication style and work ethic.

Make Money (or not).
Don’t miss out on the right opportunity because it doesn’t pay. Some of the best entry-level positions begin with an unpaid summer opportunity; consider a part-time gig or
other creative ways to make some extra money.

What You Like…and What You Can Live Without.
If you’re graduating and you do receive an offer, make sure you accept for the right reasons. Are the goals and the ethics of the organization aligned with your professional
aspirations? Do you work well with the team, and do you find the work challenging? If not, consider what changes may bring about those results.

If you’re not a rising senior or you just don’t receive an offer, think of the internship as a resume builder and bridge to your next position. An internship won’t make or break your professional future, but it can provide some valuable resources to get you where you need and want to go. Choose Wisely!

Give H.O.P.E. Live H.O.P.E.

Ashley Moss
Guest Blogger

About the Author

Ashley Moss is a social media consultant and a freelance multimedia producer from Northern Virginia. She’s passionate about all things media and is almost never without a good cup of coffee. She tweets @AshleyM_Moss about general news, faith, health, and women’s interest. Reach Ashley at http://about.me/ashleymmoss.