By Michael Cizek
What do you do when you get off of work at your internship?
Do you work out? Do you call home? Do you curl up with a tasty dinner and settle in with a binge-worthy Netflix show? I’ve been known to do all three.
But after a while, I began to wonder if there was a better way I could use my time after work. I’m in a new place, with new people, and have a completely different schedule. How can I make the most of these formative summer weeks?
I signed up for an internship to grow both personally and professionally; to equip myself with the necessary tools to be successful with a full-time position in the near future. But this growth mindset ended when I walked out of work each day.
It was time to shift my perspective. I began looking at my internship not as an 8-hour job, but a 24-hour development experience. A summer spent growing and preparing for the unknowns of the future.
Now, I needed to figure out how I wanted to spend the other sixteen hours of my internship.
Below are some of the best ways I’ve found to maximize growth as a summer intern:
Pick a Summer Hobby
Whether you’re at home or far away, it is important to have an activity you can look forward to doing. I want my hobbies to reflect the region I live in; something unique to the area.
After work in Portland, OR, the other interns and I would often quickly change our clothes and drive 30 minutes to go hiking in the nearby Columbia River Gorge. Authentic Portlandia.
I decided to learn how to surf this past summer while in Jacksonville, FL. I’ve been able to get out in the water a couple times a week. While the summertime waves are often small, I made some new friends and have had a spectacular time!
Picking a summer hobby is a fun way to stay socially active while making the most of the region you’re living in. Having something unique to do has made for great conversations at work, and helped make me feel more like a local. Not sure where to start? Check out this extensive list of hobbies.
Keep Up with Friends and Family
“The mobile phone acts as a cursor to connect the digital and physical.”
― Marissa Meyer
Distance makes relationships increasingly digital. Before Facebook, “stalking” anyone might have been considered a crime. But to maintain our analog relationships in an increasingly digital world, we’ll have to pick up the phone and make a call to make a human connection.
Like a backyard garden, relationships must be kept up, or they will wither and disintegrate. I have intentionally kept up with people by giving them phone calls throughout the summer. It doesn’t take much, but just calling to see how your friend is doing, or what your mom is up to will build good will and keep the relationship flourishing.
The relationships I keep with my friends and family are my most valuable assets; it is important to keep up with these VIPs.
Continue Your Faith
Working in a new internship can be all kinds of uncomfortable; you’re pushing to learn and grow daily. But when it comes to faith, I have observed many interns don’t bother to continue learning and growing.
I get it. Being in a new place makes it difficult to feel comfortable going to a new/temporary place of worship, especially if you’re alone.
But if religion is where our values and a sense of security are derived, why do we tend to schlep it off when we need it the most? With so much change going on around you, wouldn’t it be nice to have an unchanging aspect of your life?
As a Christian, I can attest that my faith is an important part of my life. My faith gives me life, a better perspective, and hope for tomorrow.
In both of my internships, I’ve struggled feeling comfortable at churches and finding community; but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth looking for. In Jacksonville, I found community by going to, a Christian Surfers Club meeting, an organization I learned about on Facebook. There, I built friendships and found a church. Continuing my faith through the summer has given me peace and courage.
If you signed up for a summer of growth, why let it stop when it comes to faith?
Get Enough Sleep
I don’t mean to sound like your high school health teacher, but sleeping enough is important. If you’re older than 18, then you need seven to nine hours of sleep a night. It’s true, look here or here. If we sleep enough, we lose a third of our day. If we don’t sleep enough, we lose our entire day. Prioritizing sleep is difficult, but doing so makes everything you do more efficient and fun. Plus, who likes having a coffee addiction?
Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals
Last spring, I mentored a group of five sophomore leaders in FLA. Before leaving for summer break, I asked them to create a list of goals for the summer. We made use of the S.M.A.R.T. goal-making strategy; goals that were Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. We made these goals in both a personal and professional sense, and shared them with one another for accountability.
I encouraged the group to do this because of how easy it is to waste time in the summer. If left unchecked, I know I would squander time where I could be progressing into a better leader, young professional, and person. To see progress and hold myself accountable, I consistently recheck my goals each week. Having written S.M.A.R.T. goals has shifted the way I approach the summer.
Get into a Routine
Want to know how to make the most of the other sixteen hours? Get into a routine. You know the drill: wake up and go to sleep at the same time, eat on the same three intervals throughout the day, and exercise consistently each day.
But why is this important? During the school year our schedule is often too varied to have any sort of regularity. When we get into a pattern of using time, we become efficient and can put our time towards more important matters. For example, at the beginning of my internship, it took me fifteen minutes to make my lunch. Now that I have a routine in making my lunch, I can make it in just four minutes, giving me the extra eleven minutes to read my Bible each morning.
As leaders, time is a currency we must spend wisely. With a routine in place, we can best divvy out our time to what matters.
Get Chores Done
“My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.”
Certainly not the most exhilarating thing to do, but important if you don’t want to live in a pigsty. During my first internship, I lived with six other interns (that’s seven total people!) in a small unfurnished three bedroom apartment. Talk about lots of dirty dishes and smelly laundry. Cleaning was a way of life.
As interns, we are learning how to juggle the not-so-fun activity of chores with a full-time work schedule. We must master juggling the rubbing and scrubbing of chores now as interns, or we will be doomed to a grubby home in the future. Your future spouse and children will thank you for learning how to do this now. And while you’re at it, why not have some fun?
Explore the Area
Whether you’re at home or thousands of miles away, exploring the area you live in is always exciting. Simply walking around has given me a better understanding of a city’s vibes and of the people who live there. I’ve gotten great recommendations for places to check out from employees at the internship; wanting to explore makes for an easy conversation starter.
But what specifically to do? Try checking out popular local restaurants, or pull out the map and drive a couple hours away to see something spectacular. One time we drove two hours from Portland where we hiked a volcano to play in the snow in July. Or, another time, we drove to the beach to drive ON the beach.
No matter what you do, exploring will get you out of your comfort zone and doing something new. Who knows what you’ll find?
As leaders, we are called to be ahead of the curve. Reading offers us a new lens to see the same world. Whether it be laziness or ignorance, it is pretty easy to find excuses to not read. A big distraction for me is the television. But in my observations, TV only offers mindless entertainment or past-oriented programing; comfortable shows to watch. Reading is about being uncomfortable; it’s about growing.
Even if it is just an article every day or a book for the summer, start reading something that will help you grow. Some of my recent favorites are John C. Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Jon Acuff’s Do Over, and Jimmy Collins’ Creative Followership.
Make the Most of Lunch
“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.”
Ah, we can’t forget about the sixteenth hour: lunch. Right in the middle of the work day, it’s your opportunity to do as you please. How can you best utilize lunch as a leader?
- Ask people you work with to eat with you; it’s an opportunity to build relationships and network
- Go for a walk outside to explore the area around the office; stretch your legs and find something new
- Read a book. This is an easy way to escape from the office; you might even learn a thing or two
- Eat at a local restaurant; you support local businesses while trying new foods, it’s a win-win
- Run errands. This is a good way to be a good steward of your time; it frees you from doing it later
The Bottom Line: Look at your internship not as an 8-hour job, but a 24-hour development experience. Be intentional with how you spend your time each day, and you’ll grow because of it.
Michael Cizek is a senior and was a member of FLA Class XII and is currently the Chief of Staff for FLA Class XIV. In December, he graduated with a B.S. in Marketing with a minor in Leadership, and is now working towards an M.S. in International Business. Michael is interested in opportunities in sales, marketing, entrepreneurship and/or management consulting. In his free time, you can find him biking with friends or driving his beloved 1986 Toyota 4Runner. Feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.