As well as giving you that much-needed work experience, a chance to develop some key skills and generally bulk up your CV in readiness for the upcoming permanent job push, any kind of summer work provides a great opportunity to extend your professional network. So as well as seizing all available opportunities to impress your colleagues with your skill, commitment and overall indispensability to the job itself, make sure you make the best use of the time to interact, make contacts and generally pump everyone you can for any information you can persuade them to share.
Make use of moments by the coffee machine to chat – most people love talking about themselves, will appreciate your interest and be happy to share insights into their own job and career journey. This will help you build a useful library of information about different roles, something that will prove invaluable both in terms of helping you make decisions about your own career interests as well as making you a much more credible candidate. You will be able to talk with authority and credibility about work generally, and future interviewers will be very impressed to learn how you seized every opportunity to get the most out of your experience.
If you have a staff canteen, introduce yourself to colleagues from across the organisation and ask to join them for lunch – or breakfast. Set up more formal chats too – use the company staff directory to contact people directly yourself or consider asking your manager or, potentially, your contact in HR, to set up informational interviews with people in other parts of the organisation. Take a risk and ask to speak to senior people, who will often be very interested in sharing their knowledge. Again, if you make good use of this time you will develop both a good understanding of how the organisation as a whole fits together as well as the detail of specific roles. You’ll also get a better appreciation of different work environments within the company and the way different teams interact.
If you are in an organisation which has an active social life, do take part in activities that are organised – maybe try to play some sport or participate in team outings, just show a willingness to join in.
Needless to say, it’s a given that you thank people for their help and the time they spend with you – a polite email expressing your appreciation will go a long way. For people who offer particular support a handwritten note will be particularly appreciated.
At the end of your time in an organisation, include all those who have helped in your goodbye mail to your colleagues. Ask individuals if they will be happy for you to keep in touch, to connect with you on LinkedIn. If the answer is yes, follow through, and send the odd update over the following months – perhaps telling them you are happily settled back at university after your tour of South America and enjoying your course again, let them know any career-related decisions you make, share any successes with them.