2020 Update: We still stand by a lot of this advice on how to say goodbye at the end of your internship — but you may also want to check out our more recent tips on ending internships positively.
*The Pat Benatar song is actually “About the Art of Letting Go,” not saying good bye, but so it goes.
As the summer dwindles for summer classes of future MBAs and JDs, we thought we’d give some advice on how to say goodbye (and hello).
While you’re still working there…
1. Give people a head’s up that your last day is approaching — do your best to set up lunch, coffee, whatever. Until you’ve accepted your offer there is still very much an air of “let’s make the summers happy,” so now would be a good time to approach that Big Wig and see if you can set something up. (Hint: If you’re trying to organize something with the CEO or Executive Partner you may want to try to get a few other summers on board — it’ll be less awkward for you and it’ll be seen as more time-efficient for the Big Wig.)
2. Assess if you’d like to offer any of your time during your final year in school — law firms in particular have been known to quietly use 3Ls if there is too much work. If you’d like to commit your time during your last full year of freedom, offer it up during lunch or coffee.
3. Make sure people in your summer class are organizing a thank-you present for your secretaries, as well as the recruiting office — flowers are nice, spa packages are better. If no one is, spearhead the effort yourself. If you had a very active summer, follow up with a hand-written thank-you note to the recruiting office. Why? It’s the gracious thing to do. (And no one likes working with an ingrate.)
4. On your last day, try to do a personal drop-by to say goodbye to the people you enjoyed working with the most. If anything comes up in the conversation, be sure to follow up on it. Exchange e-mail addresses if possible — if there was a mid-level at the company you especially liked you may want to make sure you get his or her personal e-mail address, on the off chance they leave before you return.
5. Be judicious about social networking sites. It’s fine to use Facebook or MySpace to connect with the other students you summered with. If you want to, it’s not inappropriate to use LinkedIn to connect, either. However, do not request to become “Linked In” with superiors at the company, unless you’d also ask them to recommend you to a future employer — it’s more serious than a casual link, and no one has really had time to assess the other person’s work. (See our updated LinkedIn tips here.)
Requesting to become linked to an mid-level or senior person you had lunch once or twice with, or wrote a memo for, is really not acceptable.
Similarly, be wise about your Facebook page — if you’re going to connect with future work associates, take your cue from them. If they don’t have drunken bikini shots of themselves on there, you might want to think twice before putting those on your own page. (Although, really, we’re hoping you removed those pictures before you started the interview process.)
During the long absence…
6. Stay in touch with people you liked! Ask for advice, give them a general update on your life if you got to personally know someone well. This can pay off professionally: if you worked at a law firm this summer and got to know a first- or second-year associate very well, by the time you get back they’ll be a mid-level associate with (hopefully) good work to pass along.
7. Use Google Alerts to stay “up” on projects you worked on during the summer. Did the deal ever happen? Did the case ever settle? Did the product ever launch? Send an e-mail when you see an article on point to the bosses who supervised you. Also use the service to stay up on other company news and gossip. This way, if the firm wins a huge judgment, or the company posts huge profits you can congratulate the people you knew at the company (as well as being aware if layoffs happen or the stock price plummets).
Finally, you may also want to use Google Alerts for any newsmakers in your firm — it never hurts to e-mail the BigWig and say, “Ah, saw your op-ed in last week’s WSJ. I learned a lot, and thought you’d be interested to read ____ as well.”
8. Don’t speak ill of your experience around campus. Remember, this is the company you’ll be working for; it will appear on your resume — you don’t want to contribute to a bad opinion of it, if one exists (and you certainly don’t want to create one).
As you prepare to come back for the start of work…
9. Send a personal e-mail to the people you worked with to let them know you’re coming back — even if everyone in your class is starting on the same date. The onus of getting back in touch falls to the person with the least seniority — which is you. Let them know you’ll be coming back soon; depending on the person you’re e-mailing you may want to ask if they have any good projects if they can hold them for your start date, or you may want to ask if there are any projects at the company you should avoid like the plague.
10. Whatever you do, during every part of this process, avoid e-mailing everyone at the company or law firm. You may have seen people who had worked at the company for years send around a mass e-mail saying good bye — THIS IS NOT YOU. DO NOT DO THIS. All you will do is make yourself seem self-important and lacking in discrimination.
Liked this story? You may also want to check out our Corporette 101 features (advice for women just starting out in the business world), The Hunt (where we review some options in the market for basics), our What to Wear To… advice, or maybe check out some of our polls. Oh, or also our 10 Things columns…