Externships are one of the secret ingredient to kick starting your career. But a few miscalculated steps could dampen your image for years to come.

Whether you love or hate your externship, burning bridges is not going to do your career any favors. Here are seven ways to keep your professional image intact after your externship ends:

1. Don’t forget to say thank you

As your externship comes to end — or even if you’re already gone — it’s your duty to personally thank everyone you worked with during that period. Recognition is important, even if you didn’t thoroughly enjoy the working experience.

Verbal thank you’s aren’t enough, either. Go with the handwritten thank you note. For each person you write, provide specifics about what you appreciated. Maybe they showed you the ropes or made your lunch break more bearable by sharing a table with you. Whatever it is, avoid a canned response.

2. Don’t badmouth anyone

Unfortunately, some externship experiences aren’t positive. You may have had a less-than-impressive manager or duties that lacked educational value, but it’s best not to share your opinions publicly. Don’t tweet or Facebook your distaste for an employer, ever.

3. Don’t lie about your experience

The aftermath of a bad externship may feel disheartening, but don’t blow it out of proportion when sharing it with friends and family. Lying about your experience could get around fast and ruin your professional reputation.

4. Don’t share confidential information

Sharing confidential information pertaining to your externship, such as client- or customer-related details, could place you in serious legal trouble. You’d face hefty legal fees and being branded as untrustworthy — something no employer is looking for.

5. Don’t lose touch

Building your network is essential to the future of your career. Everyone you came in contact with during your externship is a potentially valuable connection for another externship, job opening or professional development opportunity.

Stay in touch with your fellows classmates, coworkers and manager by connecting with them on social media sites. For instance, you can shoot your previous externship manager an email if you see the company has won an award, or check in with a former coworker to see how things are going since you left.

6. Don’t ask to be hired without having a plan

Maybe you’re seeking an entry-level role. The worst possible thing you can do is ask for a job without having the appropriate plan in place. It’s the equivalent of shouting “Please hire me!” into a crowded room.

Build a personal presentation. Compile all the outstanding work you’ve done for the company and from other endeavors. Schedule a time to speak with your externship manager and pitch this opportunity. Even if they’re not sold on bringing you back or they don’t have the resources, they may know of another employer seeking an entry-level employee.

7. Don’t engage unprofessionally

While judgment is subjective, you should set some engagement boundaries for yourself after your externship. Don’t go to the bar and get drunk with your previous externship manager or coworkers or engage in unprofessional public conversation on social media.

Just because your externship is over, that doesn’t mean you don’t reflect on the company— that gig will be on your resume for years to come. And burning bridges isn’t the best way to jumpstart your career. Remember to keep your professional reputation in mind even after you finish an externship.


By Ashley Mosley

Ashley Mosley is Community Engagement Manager of InternMatch, an online platform connecting the best intern candidates and employers. Connect with Ashley and InternMatch on Facebook,LinkedIn and Twitter.