How to make sure your internship ends with a full-time job
You want to do more than just your job to get ahead. Write these down.
They tell you: “Get an internship, even if it’s unpaid. It’s great experience.” So you do. If you’re an overachiever, you may even land five internships by the time you graduate. Lost in all this is what they don’t tell you: how to turn all of that hard work into a full-time job.
Well, first of all, to go from “intern” to “employee,” you’ll need to do more than just deliver great performance. “Interns think, ‘If I just do great work for my boss, I’ll get a job,’ but that’s not necessarily the case,” says Mark Lyden, author of College Students: Do This! Get Hired!
Unlike the advice you’ve been getting, we’re going to clearly lay out exactly what you need to parlay your internship into a full-time job. Isn’t that what you’ve been looking for this whole time?
Make your intentions clear
Sit down with your supervisor when the internship starts and clearly articulate your goals. Lead with the biggie: “My goal is to perform at such a high level that I get a full-time job offer.” Your manager isn’t a mind reader, so don’t assume he or she knows that you want a job, says Lyden, who adds that some college students only take an internship to gain experience, acquire certain skills, or test what it’s like to work in a particular industry.
Also, meet with a representative in human resources to express your intent is to get hired. “Human resources is going to hear of entry-level job openings well in advance of the job being posted,” says Lauren Berger, CEO of InternQueen.com.
Solicit feedback from your boss
Many managers are uncomfortable providing feedback to interns. But you’ll need input from your manager to improve your skills and prove you’re worth hiring, says Larry Chiagouris, a marketing professor at Pace University and author of The Secret to Getting a Job after College: Marketing Tactics to Turn Degrees into Dollars.
Make the situation less awkward for your boss by taking the lead. Say: “I want you to know that I have thick skin. I’m here to learn and improve, so please never feel uncomfortable giving me constructive criticism.”
Moreover, ask your manager for a midterm performance evaluation to identify your strengths and weaknesses, and take the opportunity to highlight your achievements thus far. “Don’t rely on your boss to keep track of your accomplishments,” Lyden says.
Step outside your department
Don’t limit your interactions to only your direct supervisor and immediate peers. “Your particular boss may not have the power to offer you a job when the internship ends, but a manager in another part of the company may be able to hire you,” Chiagouris says.
Meet other hiring managers by requesting informational interviews (e.g., “Do you have a spare half hour for me to stop by and learn more about what your team does?”). You’ll gain institutional knowledge, gain visibility, and begin building meaningful relationships. Granted, your fellow interns may be meeting with the same people, but Chiagouris says you can leave a more lasting impression with a simple trick: “Get your own business cards. The company probably won’t give them to you as an intern, but you need to have your own cards and hand them out to people, so you can maintain communication and show you’re already a professional.”
Additionally, volunteer days, company softball games, and happy hours make for great casual settings to meet employees you wouldn’t normally be exposed to, Chiagouris says, so keep your eye on the company newsletter, so you can take advantage of these events.
Establish your reputation
Once you’ve established a track record of delivering excellent work, ask if you can accompany your boss to an executive meeting. (You can sugarcoat your request by offering to take notes.)
Before the meeting, introduce yourself to attendees one-on-one. Then, when you run into people in the hallway or at the water cooler, initiate conversation (e.g., “Hey Jim, it was great meeting you yesterday. I enjoyed learning more about our target customer from your presentation.”).
Find your advocates
Even if your internship has a formal mentoring component, you should develop relationships with several advisors throughout the company, Chiagouris says. Seek out tenured employees who understand what makes the company tick. Foster these relationships, so you have buy-in when it comes time for the boss to decide which intern to hire.
“At many companies, the internship program is essentially a six- to eight-week long job interview,” Berger says. Make them count.