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How do I gracefully wrap up my co-op internship?
August 13, 2012 1:43 PM   Subscribe

I'm finishing up at a co-op internship in two weeks. I'm a bit nervous about the wrap-up.

If relevant, this co-op has been at an IT company and I've been working mainly as a developer/analyst (although I didn't get to write a whole lot of code).

What is the best way to proceed if I want to a) have a truthful discussion of my performance with my supervisor, and b) want to leave things open on whether or not I'd like to work here when I graduate, which will be in a mere four months? Also, how do I end things on a particularly good note?

Basically, I'm feeling awkward because I'm not sure if I would accept a position here in the future. On the other hand, I still would like them to want me to work here... So I feel like I'm asking to have my cake and eat it too. This would also feel less awkward if I had a more familiar relationship with my supervisor, but this isn't the case as he's been largely absent due to being busy/a re-org/vacation/illness. And less awkward if I'd had to opportunity to write more code. And less awkward if I didn't have hard-to-mask bad feelings about the co-op because of his general absence, about having gone through long periods without work to do, and poor communication and follow-up with me and the other students about our work. Lest you think: bad organization, run!, the employees here seem to be really happy.

I'm going to request a meeting with my supervisor to go over my final evaluation (rather than just receiving it from him via email, signing off on it and sending to my school without discussing it further). I hope to accomplish a) and b) the above in this meeting. Advice on what to say and how to say it?

General advice on wrapping up a co-op is also greatly appreciated.

tl;dr: how to wrap up a co-op without saying: I'd really look forward to working with you again!
posted by kitcat to Work & Money (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
So stifle your feelings, express gratitude for the opportunity and leave everyone smiling. No one cares about your special internship experience. Don't give them a chance to remember you as a whiny youngster who never had enough to do or you may not get a chance to entertain any future offers. I'm sure that the supervisor wasn't thinking about what effects his illness or vacation or company re-organization would have on you, the intern of 4 months. Say thanks and look grateful. Be polite.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:54 PM on August 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Unless your field is wildly different than mine (engineering), you don't have to say anything in particular. They know you're going to apply to multiple places and potentially get multiple offers. In fact, even if you definitely wanted to work there, they want you to be the kind of person that is going to apply for multiple jobs rather than just slide into this one.

tl;dr: how to wrap up a co-op without saying: I'd really look forward to working with you again!
You could say that exactly, and everyone would understand that it was a simple pleasantry. They're not going to hand you a contract to sign or anything :)

I don't mean to talk down to you, and there might be some subtlety in your question that I am missing in which case I apologize; else, I think you might be overthinking this a bit (which is fine - I tend to horribly anticipate and agonize about any type of evaluation or major opening/closing conversation with a boss, myself).
posted by ftm at 1:55 PM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Please, no whiny youngster prejudice. While I may sound like one (?) I am a 32-year-old mom. And even if I weren't...
posted by kitcat at 1:58 PM on August 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I leave every job saying I'd love the chance to work with them again. I keep those doors wiiiiiide open, and while I've never gone back as a full-time employee, the philosophy has led to some fruitful consulting work with my former co-workers even after they've moved on to other companies. It doesn't matter if your tenure wasn't perfect -- most people would simply rather work with the devil they know instead of finding and hiring a stranger.
posted by mochapickle at 2:06 PM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


What is the best way to proceed if I want to a) have a truthful discussion of my performance with my supervisor, and b) want to leave things open on whether or not I'd like to work here when I graduate, which will be in a mere four months? Also, how do I end things on a particularly good note?

I agree with ftm. Don't bother trying to shade your conversation towards "want to leave things open on whether or not I'd like to work here when I graduate". Pretend like the only thing you want in the world is a job offer from this organization. The more you can convince yourself that that is the truth, the better. If you happen to get a job offer, then you can begin to get picky, but for now, put any ambiguity out of your mind.

Even if they don't offer you a job, they presumably know people at other companies who might, at some point, and you want to leave the best possible feeling in this person's mind, in case your name comes up in the future.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:08 PM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Short answer, abandon your "a" criteria. No matter how much they say they want your honest opinion, they absolutely do not, and will only hold it against you. Everyone at the company already knows all their real problems, and if they haven't fixed them yet, they either can't, or won't, do so. Bringing them up will only serve to get you blackballed by HR.

Stick with "Thank you for giving me the opportunity to work for YourCorp(tm). I've enjoyed my time here and found it a nice counterpoint to the abstraction of the academic world. If you have any openings when I graduate this summer, I would welcome the opportunity to apply for them."

If they really press you hard to come up with something negative, pick something totally non-core-business related, like "Well, I wish you had Diet Coke in the break room soda fountain."

And keep in mind, it doesn't matter whether or not you would actually take a position there - You can always say "no thanks" if you have a better offer.
posted by pla at 2:09 PM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Even if you don't want to work at this place, they may still be a valuable (or essential) reference in order to locate a job somewhere else. Everyone has it--be positive, be thankful, express your interest in working there in the future.
posted by anonnymoose at 2:13 PM on August 13, 2012


Never burn any bridges. Your exit review is NOT the time for honesty. That's the beauty of a co-op internship. You get to see what the world is like out there. Now you know. Sometimes your supervisor is dealing with a whole bunch of stuff and won't have time to guide you, on board you or whatever.

True story. I started a new job. I was relocated and settled in to do my job, knowing that my manager and my counterpart were there to ease me into the role. Except, as it turns out, they were having a torrid affair with each other, leaving me out in the cold. I lasted 9 months and was relocated back when my boss and my co-worker announced that they were pregnant (kind of messy as each was currently married to other people at the time.)

The point is, that not every internship is how you envision it. Let your supervisor run the review, be tactful in answering questions and at the end stand, shake hands and say, "I hope that we get an opportunity to work together in the future."

That's it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:14 PM on August 13, 2012


Why on earth wouldn't you say I'd really look forward to working with you again!?

It sounds like you're open to the possibility of working there again, so what's the reason not to say that? It is known that co-op students often don't have much to do, and that this isn't the fault of the students. Your experience sounds very typical; it matches up with my experience as a co-op student, and the experiences of everyone I've ever known who has done a co-op term, across a variety of disciplines. Not much to do, not much contact with the supervisor, etc. From what you've written here, nothing happened that was exceptional and needs desperately to be addressed. (Maybe something you're omitting fits those criteria, though? If so, carry on...) Just say the thing you're expected to say, which is: I'd really look forward to working with you again!
posted by snorkmaiden at 2:18 PM on August 13, 2012


Thank you all, very good advice. I just wanted to clarify that I want him to be honest with me about how I did overall.
posted by kitcat at 2:27 PM on August 13, 2012


kitcat: "I just wanted to clarify that I want him to be honest with me about how I did overall."

He may not know, frankly, and if he is that busy, it may not really be worth his time to find out. If he has been that absent, you may want to try and find time to have a discussion with someone who may not technically have been your supervisor, but has seen and can comment on the work you have actually done.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:34 PM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sad to say that if they actually cared about their internship program, none of this would have happened; they would have designed it to have more and better support and supervision.

As for how to get honest feedback, if there's some sort of exit interview, I'd say something along the lines of, "I've really appreciated the opportunity to get on-the-job learning opportunities. To learn as much as possible from this experience, I'd truly appreciate your candid opinion of my job performance. If you'd prefer to do this via email, that'd be great, too."

/in the middle of designing an internship program for an institution right now
posted by smirkette at 2:35 PM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sad to say that if they actually cared about their internship program, none of this would have happened; they would have designed it to have more and better support and supervision.

I've only gotten honest feedback at a job twice. Once was when I was working at a weirdly snobby bakery and we had performance reviews, and once was when I was interning, and my intern supervisor became sort of a buddy and was willing to talk to me about some things more honestly than he would have otherwise. It's rare that employers, especially of interns, actually care about performance reviews.

I would, however, suck up to your supervisor (a little) upon leaving. Even if you don't want a job there, it's a tough economy and it would be nice to have options. If you don't express an interest in a job, they probably won't consider you.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 5:41 PM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


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