How To Make The Most Of Your Summer Sports Internship

It’s summer internship season for thousands of sports management students, where those eight to 12 weeks may appear to be the most important weeks of the year, outside of Finals. As you’ve probably heard, internships and your outside-the-classroom experiences are arguably the biggest reasons why you’ll break into the industry and hopefully gain full-time employment.

Below are a few pieces of advice so you can make the most out of your summer and leave a lasting impression on the organization.

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1) Arrive early. It’s one of the more common cliches you’ll hear in any industry, especially sports. If your start time in the office is 9 a.m. ET, arrive at 8:15 or 8:30 a.m. It’ll give you time to get settled, grab a cup of coffee, put your lunch in the fridge and catch up with your colleagues before the day begins. Plus, you won’t feel rushed. And, stay late(r). In short, don’t be the first one out of the office at 5:30 p.m. ET.

2) Do your assigned work. Simple, yes, but it needs to be restated. You weren’t offered a highly-competitive internship to take two-hour lunches, ask for Fridays off or mingle with the other summer interns for minutes on end.

3) Don’t be ‘but I brought my lunch’ guy or girl. In other words, if other interns or people within your department head out of the office spur-of-the-moment and invite you to tag along for lunch, go. The out-of-the-office conversations are the ones where you’ll generally learn more about the inner workings of the organization, get to know your colleagues on a more personal level and ultimately, develop a better relationship. The $10 to $15 you’ll spend once or twice a week on lunch isn’t the end of the world. Budget accordingly. Maybe one less Starbucks each week during the summer or forget the overpriced beer at last call on Friday night.

4) This is related to the previous point: get to know people. Period. This doesn’t apply for just your 10-week internship but rather, your entire undergraduate career and beyond. At the office this summer, spend time in the common areas, mingle by the water cooler so to speak, eat your lunch in the cafeteria and grab that mid-afternoon coffee from the downstairs cafe or local coffee shop with your co-workers. Obviously, make sure you get your work done, but be open to connecting further with those you’re interacting with the most on a daily basis.

Make your way up to the floor above and below yours if you can. Get to know people and their stories, careers and what they enjoy doing away from the office. Find those common passion points and build your relationship around those interests.

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5) Listen, listen, listen. You’re low on the totem pole, one of the most junior individuals in the office. You might think you know a lot — and even if you do — it’s best to reserve comment at times. In other words, don’t just speak to speak and hear your voice. That doesn’t mean to remain quiet, though. If you have something meaningful to say or a question to ask, speak up. There’s professionals at your company who will have 10, 15 and 20 years of industry experience. You can sit back and listen but still be engaged in the conversation through your posture, demeanor and what questions you ask.

6) Be efficient with your time and your work. If there’s a task or project that will take you three hours to complete, don’t magically stretch it into a full day’s worth of work. Finish it in a timely manner and then ask, what else is there I can help with? You’re there to work.

7) Be careful with how you use social media and your smartphone at the office. You might think you’re just having a quick three-minute text change with your brother or close friend, but you could be sending the wrong message to your co-workers or boss. I’d walk into your internship with the assumption that being on your phone should be kept at a minimum … unless your role requires you to be on a phone all day long (i.e., ticket sales, social media).

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8) Take notes of your tasks and accomplishments. You’d be surprised what you can easily forget over a short summer internship. You can reference your daily/weekly log when you’re updating your resume and fine-tuning your Linkedin profile in the early Fall. When you interview for your next internship, you can also revisit your notes, recall what you accomplished and how you positively affected the organization.

9) Stay in touch with your boss, close co-workers and other people around the office you’ve closely interacted with throughout the duration of your internship. Chances are they’ll be some of your best contacts and friends in the industry as you move forward. As you apply for future internships and your first full-time role, I’d bet you’ll revisit at least a few of the relationships you began forming at previous internships and ask them to be a reference. So, continue to build and strengthen your relationships, conduct regular check-ins via a quick email, call or text — depending on how close you are with a particular person — and update your close network on your career.

You don’t want to end your internship in mid-August and not touch base with any of the individuals you met until the following Spring when you’re making an ‘ask’, such as a recommendation for another internship or an introduction to a colleague.

10) Smile. Bring a positive energy to the office every single day. Be mindful of your body language. You’re only in the office for eight to 12 weeks, so your window to leave a positive impression is small.

11) After the completion of your internship, send a handwritten ‘thank you’ note to your boss, the hiring manager and whoever else you felt had a positive impact on your summer experience. Personalize the note and cite a couple of learnings from that individual. Rarely, if anyone, does this small feat and as a result, you’ll stand out.

About Mark J. Burns

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