For most interns, enjoying the experience and being asked back as a full time employee is the ultimate goal. Most employers who have interns hire more than they have full time positions for, however.
So how do you make yourself stand out and grab that entry-level position? The keys are hard work, learning and initiative.
Interns Need to Work Hard
The most important thing you can do as an intern, or in any job, is to work hard. Period. Make sure that you complete all of the tasks that you are given in a timely manner, and to the best of your ability. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if they seem dumb. Most supervisors would prefer that you do something right and ask questions than do something wrong that will have to be fixed down the road. Remember that in addition to work, this is a learning experience for you and that the door should be open for you to find out as such as possible about the work you are doing.
Interns Must Be Curious
To really stand out to your supervisor as a potential employee at your internship, make sure to ask lots of questions that go beyond your day-today tasks. Most people will be flattered that you have an interest in what they do, and will be more than willing to talk to you about it if the timing is right. If your supervisor is working on a particular deal that you don’t quite understand, or somebody’s title confuses you, ask your supervisor to explain things during your weekly check-in meetings (hopefully you are having these), or you can even suggest that the two of you have an informational lunch or coffee break to learn more about the company or industry.
This initiative will tell your supervisor that you are serious about pursuing your career at your internship site, and they will appreciate the though that you are putting in to determining if it is truly the right fit.
In some cases, the specific department or team that you are placed on during your internship will not necessarily be where you picture yourself staying. This is certainly not a bad thing, as long as you keep an open mind. Often an intern (particularly in more informal placements) will be able to shadow a number of people during their stay, and if you have noticed a particular employee is doing something that you feel like you’d enjoy, ask your supervisor if you could spend a week with him or her. As an intern, a company is investing in you, either time, money, training or all three. They will want to see a return on that investment, and having you as an employee, even in a completely different role than you initially imagined, is exactly the return they are looking for.
Put Yourself First
This may seem like a contradiction to what you’ve been told about interning, and it does not imply that you should put your personal problems or feelings ahead of the work to be done. However, you have to put your career and academic goals at the forefront of your internship, and remind yourself of what they are as the months go by. If you entered the internship as a way to figure out what you want to do, make sure that you doing ongoing assessments of what you like and don’t like about your tasks, which will help you determine if a job in the field is right for you. If you were just trying to take advantage of experiential learning, and aren’t necessarily looking for a job, make that clear and soak in as much knowledge as possible. If your next move is a career in the industry, learn as many hard and soft skills as possible and make your intentions known.
You should never leave an internship in the same frame of mind as when you started, and keeping your goals in the forefront will help to ensure that you are constantly learning and growing.
Ask for a Job After the Internship
If you have had a great intern experience and feel like you’ve found a great fit, don’t be afraid to probe about positions opening up.
It is much more efficient and cost effective for a company to hire or promote from within; this cuts down on training, frees up the human resources department from having to recruit and interview, and ensures that there aren’t too many disruptive transitions. Ask your supervisor if there are any entry level positions vacant about a month before your internship comes to an end.
There may not be anything available, but it is not uncommon for special positions to be created for particularly talented interns, or for your internship period to be extended until something does become available. If you are an unpaid intern, you may be able to negotiate and hourly wage after your initial terms ends, which could then be converted into a full time position.
Finally, if you find that you don’t think you’d like a position at your current internship placement, be honest with your supervisor about why, and look to him or her for help figuring out what might be a better fit. Do an internal evaluation of the skills that you’ve learned and update your resume, paying special attention to any instance where you were given increasing responsibility or management experience. Update your resume with this information, and use it as a starting point for beginning your search for a full-time position.
You may not have realized that you have a particular knack for business writing because it was not directly related to your internship, but you can use the experience to sell yourself to a future employer.
Each internship is truly a learning experience, and should serve to provide valuable insight into your future career.