Last Impressions Count

From Mary Crane (, who conducts our 1L Etiquette Dinners. 

Long before you started your summer employment experience, someone likely told you about the importance of making a positive first impression. You couldn’t have received better advice. Study after study indicates that employers develop initial reactions to prospective employees almost instantaneously. Once an impression is made, it’s extremely difficult for a summer associate or intern to change it.

Let me suggest one additional thought: the last impression that you leave is just as important as the first one that you make. Truth be told you can make a great first impression and bolster it by a summer of good work. But if you depart in a less-than-professional manner, all of the good will that you developed over the past several weeks will dissipate immediately.

Following are five things that you can do to ensure your lasting impression is a positive one.

Complete all assignments and transfer your work product
Tempting though it may be, don’t slack off during your final days as a summer associate or intern. The last assignment you turn in may be the first one the organization’s hiring committee reviews when assessing your summer performance. That assignment should be among the most carefully researched, thoroughly analyzed, and fastidiously drafted documents that you produced this summer. Ensure that it demonstrates you succeeded in honing your professional skills over the previous several weeks.

To the extent that any of the work you produced over the summer is related to an ongoing matter, transfer your work product to an established professional. Include contact information (phone numbers and email addresses) of the key individuals with whom you worked. Note next steps needed. Highlight key deadlines, especially ones that are rapidly approaching.

Create a lasting impression that communicates: I’m a serious professional committed to ensuring the wants and needs of the organization’s clients will be met.

Meet with your supervisor(s)
Before you head back to school, set aside enough time to meet one-on-one with every supervisor with whom you worked during your summer experience. Use this meeting to gather constructive feedback about your performance. If all of the feedback you receive is positive, congratulations. You’ll likely receive a job offer. If some feedback is less than positive, make sure that you fully understand any concerns a supervisor has raised. Ask clarifying questions. Listen thoughtfully to responses.

Use this same meeting to express your appreciation and thanks for the opportunities afforded to you over the summer. Gushing is neither necessary nor appropriate. Use a simple statement along the lines of, “I want to thank you for the challenging assignments you gave me this summer. I learned a lot.”

By the way, make an effort to say a final “thank you” to the support staff who contributed to your summer experience, too. A few kind words said to members of the recruiting team and other administrative staff can help burnish your image as a prospective new hire with a great attitude.

Update your résumé
In just a few short weeks, you will be completely engaged in a flurry of new school activities. Before classwork overwhelms you, pull out your résumé and update it highlighting the new skills and knowledge that you acquired as the result of your summer experience.

This is also a good time to reevaluate your professional goals and the type of work that will help you accomplish those goals. I know scads of students who started a summer job thinking they had identified what they wanted to do with the remainder of their lives. In many cases, an eight-week exposure to the realities of an occupation was enough to convince them that they needed to reimagine their futures.

I’m a big believer in living an intentional life. If your summer experience in a particular field was simply awful, carefully assess your options. The last thing you want to become is a 50-year-old established professional looking back on your 20-something self and saying, “I wish I had taken another path back then.”

Create a stay-in-touch plan
Although the Internet has increased professional networking opportunities, it has not altered the fundamental fact that successful professionals focus on building relationships rather than collecting followers. They understand that employers hire people who they know, and they promote employees who they like and respect.

Start building your professional network by creating a plan to stay in touch with the key people you met during your summer experience. At a minimum, connect with others via LinkedIn. Additionally, create an electronic or paper Rolodex that contains important contact information. Create a plan to reach out to your contacts every three to four months. And when you do reach out, don’t just blast information about you and your accomplishments. Instead, focus on sending others information that they will find interesting or useful.

By the way, this is an important activity whether you stay in a particular profession or switch to something completely different. The number of people who start a job in a particular field and stay in that field diminishes daily. The statistics say that you will likely change careers several times in your professional life … and so will many of the people with whom you worked over the past several weeks. This makes staying in touch both more important and more challenging.

Keep this in mind: of all the people you met this summer, you can’t imagine who will open a door for you in the future. Make sure that you stay in touch.

If you’re summer experience was not perfect …
Not all summer experiences are ideal. Some summer associates and interns end up working in organizations where there simply isn’t a good fit. And let’s face it. While no one is perfect, some established professionals probably should not be supervising summer hires.

Whatever you do, as you bring your summer employment experience to a close, please do not burn any bridges. Don’t say or write anything negative about an employer or a supervisor. Keep in mind that anything you upload on the Internet will live forever. It’s impossible for you to know now when you might need to interact with your summer employer in the future. Maintain positive lines of communication.