What's a good gift for my superstar summer intern?
August 15, 2017 8:08 AM   Subscribe

My summer intern's last day is Thursday. I'll be offering references since he knocked the job out of the park in his time here. Additionally, I'll be getting him a card and would like to get him a nice small parting gift of...something.

The tricky part is that my company already provides nice swag, so he's already received a nice branded notebook and fancy water bottle. The job is at a software company but the department he's been working in is pretty dry, and in a field he may not pursue later, so something related to the work itself is probably out. We're friendly, but I don't have much of a sense of his tastes or interests. I wouldn't want to make a gift too personal even if I did, but gift cards seem a little extra on the impersonal side.

Any other ideas? Plants would be my go to for someone with their own apartment or office but seem iffy for a student. Something I can purchase in the Boston area in the next couple of days needed; budget is around $20. Also open to hearing that I'm overthinking this and should just swing by Starbucks for a gift card.

It sucks that this would even be in doubt, but since we live in a world where exploiting free labor is considered an ok practice I would like to assure everyone that yes, he is paid!
posted by prewar lemonade to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I know you said you're offering references, but if you aren't already, write an actual letter. I've gotten a couple actual letters at the ends of jobs, and because I always feel like I'm imposing when I use a person as a reference, I love being able to use an existing reference letter.

I would personally give fair trade chocolate; that's my go-to for things like this. $20 will buy multiple fair trade chocolate bars, which make a hefty little present when wrapped.
posted by aniola at 8:14 AM on August 15, 2017 [10 favorites]

Best answer: At that age I was super unsure about best practices for asking for references or help with networking. In addition to aniola's suggestion for writing an actual letter, what about including in your card of thanks something specific you'd be happy to help him with going forward? Something like "please contact me if I can help you with introductions to people in our field"?
posted by mcduff at 8:44 AM on August 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I think a Starbucks gift card (or similar) tucked into the card is honestly the most appropriate. I definitely would feel weird getting chocolates from a boss (especially if you are of opposite genders), and I think this is a situation where even if you really worked well with the person, it is better not to get too personal.
posted by rainbowbrite at 8:44 AM on August 15, 2017 [6 favorites]

Twenty dollars? A water bottle and a notebook? I'd suggest it's appropriate to up the gift level considerably. I'd suggest something along the lines of a very nice pen (in the $100 range), as he can use that in professional settings. It's easy to buy and to carry, and it shows respect that he's moving into the adult world. It'll also never be obsolete and will last him a lifetime.
posted by Capri at 8:50 AM on August 15, 2017

The thing my students and term employees have said they appreciated most at the end of their term was time - I book a lunch or coffee two months out from the end date to start the ritual of getting together once in a while. I pay for those lunches or coffees and offer mentoring and advice, connections to jobs or employers that might be a good fit, and the like.

After the first one, they're under no obligation to continue and I let them dictate what happens. I have found in my experience that actually opening the door to providing post-job support makes it easier for them to ask.
posted by notorious medium at 9:30 AM on August 15, 2017 [14 favorites]

Response by poster: A letter is a great idea! I will also be sure to offer any help I can as he moves on professionally. I'm afraid the gift budget isn't going to budge much; our company doesn't really do parting gifts beyond the aforementioned swag (not that it's a problem to give one, it's just not done through official channels.) I'm spending my own money on this and that's how much I want to spend. (By the way, the notebook is nice - it's actually a leather covered journal, and the bottle is one of those high tech thermal bottles that are not cheap.) A nice pen is a lovely idea; I might look for a more affordable one. Thanks for all the suggestions so far!
posted by prewar lemonade at 4:48 PM on August 15, 2017

Dittoing the time and letter - one of the things I particularly loved leaving my first job (which was a one year fixed-term thing) was my boss spending some time with me and being really clear about what she thought I was great at, and should keep finding ways to explore. The more big-picture parts that it's often easy to lose track of.

Having notes from someone I respected that said "You're really great at this particular thing" and "I really appreciated these things in how you tackled this project" was really helpful to me at later points.

(That job is when I gave in to the inevitable and decided to go to library school, so there you are.)

With interns I have here, I don't have a budget for going away stuff, but I make sure to schedule an hour to sit down and talk about bigger picture job type stuff, offer to talk to them further down the road if they've got questions, and I try to check in with them a month or so later just to make it clear I meant it was fine to stay in contact.
posted by modernhypatia at 8:10 AM on August 16, 2017

Sitting on my desk right now, literally 16 years later, is a gift I got when I left my first internship. It's one of those "make your own photo mug" things and my co-workers took photos of things that were relevant to my time there - not just photos of the people, but like excerpts from a flowchart that was one of my projects - and printed out a photo collage and put it in the mug. The photos are pasted on an inter-office mail envelope and the message is simply "Best Wishes From Your Friends At [Company]." I don't use it to drink out of, I put like pens in it, but it always makes me smile.

On a more practical note, though, I was always broke when I was that age so don't discount how much a gift card would mean. My go-to for nearly universal gift cards are Amazon, closely followed by Starbucks and iTunes.
posted by oblique red at 9:19 AM on August 16, 2017

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