Dear Tech Intern Class of 2016…

First of all – congratulations on scoring what’s (hopefully) going to be a fantastic internship this summer! It’s a huge accomplishment, and I’m sure you went through many applications and interviews to get this gig.

Though your HR contact has probably already made it clear how great your internship will be and how much fun you’ll be having, there are other things that perhaps aren’t as obvious. As a former summer tech intern, there are some things that I wish I had taken advantage of when I had the chance. So you can avoid missing the opportunities I didn’t take, I’ve outlined advice below…

Network internally and externally
The great part about summer tech internships is that HR usually does whatever it can to help introduce you to the different folks at your company – be it through happy hours or intern tech talks. I definitely took these events for granted – don’t make the same mistake. If you find that someone that speaks or you speak to is interesting to you, follow up with another coffee chat to learn more about them. People do not turn down coffee chats initiated by interns – after all, they are trying to convince you to come back to work for their company.

One thing I wish I also did more of was networking externally. Sure – I did set up a couple of coffee chats here and there after tech networking events. But I could’ve done so much more, especially since I was in San Francisco at the time. Wherever you may be, there are SO many resources and so many smart people to leverage.

Figure out your likes and dislikes
Since internships tend to be pretty short-term, this is the best time to figure out all of your likes and dislikes. Though you’ll probably be ramping up half of the time (it depends on how big the company is), start a private blog on lessons learned at work, how your relationship is with your manager, how you like your team, etc. Take note of what you’d like to see more of, what’s working, what’s not working, etc.

Have some fun
You’ll definitely want to get your work and projects done during your internship, but this is also a chance to show your team (and perhaps the rest of the company) that you’re also a human too. A mistake I made during internships was being a bit too serious about work. If you don’t allow yourself the chance to be yourself at work – you might find out too late that you aren’t a good fit for the culture. It’s ok to loosen up a little bit.

Give back
Last but not least, not getting more involved with the outside community was a big regret of mine while I was interning. Wherever you may intern, I bet that there are some really impactful non-profits that you can get involved in. Better yet – ask the HR lead of your intern program to see if he or she can’t help organize an intern-wide community service project. Sure, you might be busy with intern events and parties, but it’s important to also take the time to step back from the glitz and glamour of summer tech internships and give back to communities as well.

Hope this was helpful – would love to hear your thoughts on other advice you’ve heard!