How to Say Thank You: The Intern’s Gift Guide

As a new season is upon us, interns are finishing up their last few weeks with their employers. For the past few months you have had the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of the industry, work with inspiring mentors, and build skills that will support you in your future career.

As you get ready to say good bye, you want to give your supervisors the perfect gift as a gesture of your appreciation for the experience you have been given. What types of gifts are appropriate? Do you need to give a gift? What gifts are too much?

Experts Lauren Bloch, HR Manager at AOL, and Deanna Curri, Director of Recruitment at VaynerMedia, answer these questions and offer their advice on gift giving for interns. Here are five things to consider when deciding what to give your supervisors on your last day.

Be Thoughtful

Lauren: Like a gift from a friend or family member, the best gifts are always the most thoughtful, however any gift from an intern was always greatly appreciated, as it’s definitely not something program managers or direct supervisors should expect from a departing intern.

I’ve had a number of Starbucks gift certificates which was a nice gesture. One former intern brought me a bottle of wine with a tin of his mother’s homemade Christmas cookies which I loved. My favorite gift though, was a batch of homemade hamantaschen, a cookie frequently eaten during the Jewish holiday of Purim which I hadn’t had since I was little. (The intern knew that and so the gift was both thoughtful and delicious!)

Deanna: A memorable goodbye gift doesn’t need to be expensive, or even intricate. Something that shows you’ve paid attention to the job, and the manager, through your months of working together, will do perfectly.

I once got a cookbook of the perfect chocolate chip cookie — as the intern knew I had a supreme love for baking and one particular time I brought in 3 batches of chocolate chip cookies to work as an experiment. They clearly thought it out, and it made a lasting impression.

FindSpark Cookies

Photo courtesy of Neil Conway

Balance Personal with Professional

Lauren: I think gifts that are work appropriate can certainly be personal, to a point. The student who brought me hamantaschen personalized my gift–he brought me something he knew I missed from my childhood without being inappropriate. If you know your supervisor has a favorite food, place for lunch, or even favorite store, getting a small token or gift certificate is a great choice.

Deanna:  If the culture is laid back, and not as conservative — feel free to let the gift mimic that. If the culture is conservative, and your boss is conservative — keep the gift as such. Keep it to something light. Something that has been discussed at work — hobbies are a good way to go.


Gifts to Avoid

Lauren: Anything of outrageous monetary value, or something overly personal. I’d probably stay away from clothing, anything overly personal, or that could be perceived as romantic.

Each company may also have gift giving rules. You can usually find the rules about amounts or gift giving in an Employee Handbook. If you are uncertain, I recommend checking with your HR Business Partner or generalist.

Deanna: Anything expensive, or extremely personal. Limit yourself to about $25. Make sure its something either related to work, or a hobby you know the manager has and has discussed with you about participating in. Cooking, baking, a favorite coffee shop, gift certificate to a store, etc.

The Handwritten Thank You Card

Lauren: There’s really no need to give gifts, however, a hand written thank you note goes a really long way. I’ve saved every thank you note a student has ever written me and you really cannot go wrong.

Deanna: A heartfelt card always does the trick! No one writes hand-written notes anymore. The long lost art of pen to paper is extremely underestimated.

When to Give Them Your Gift

Lauren: There’s many ways to do this. Some interns will go for a farewell lunch with their manager, and giving a gift then can be a good opportunity. Other interns have simply stopped by my desk on their final day with a card–sometimes they simply leave it on my desk otherwise they deliver it by hand. If it’s a gift for your direct manager, it’s best to give it in person and I don’t think it matters if you give it at the start or end of the day if it’s appropriate. If possible, I would recommend giving your gift semi-privately if you can. It’s okay to give it on the floor or in the cubes, but try to minimize the attention you draw to giving the gift if you can.

Deanna: Perhaps at a going away lunch, party, gathering, or on your way out ask for a quick minute in their office to properly say goodbye and get their attention. Let them know that the opportunity has meant a great deal to you, and are thankful for the chance to succeed in their environment. Enter gift. And voila, a long-lasting impression can be made!

What gifts have you given your internship supervisors in the past? Share with us in the comments!


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