Internships are an essential part of the college experience, providing you the opportunity to test-drive a career field, make contacts, build marketable skills and figure out your likes and dislikes within specific industries. Graduates without work experience will stand little chance of securing a job after graduation research suggests. Work experience is now just as important as a college degree. You already know this. What you need to know is how to turn your internship between your junior and senior year into a job offer before you graduate.
An internship is a job. If you did your research, you landed an internship where you are required to do substantial and valuable work.
Plan for success:
When you are serious about turning your internship into a full-time position, start with a plan on day one.
- Bring your full self to work every day. It’s a simple concept but not always easy to do. The subway was hot and crowded; you had a disagreement with a friend; whatever is going on in your life you leave it at the front door.
- Be clear about what is expected of you. There’s a job description, and then there is what your manager and co-workers expect from you and your work. When you know how to help them, your job becomes much easier.
- Prioritize the most important things for you to learn. From understanding office hours to what systems and software you’ll need to access and how to download it—you probably have a lot of questions and little idea where to start. Identify what you need to learn and consider whether any are time-sensitive. If you don’t know or can’t figure it out, ask.
- Find someone whom you can ask stupid questions. Some companies with internship programs have someone assigned to the interns. If you don’t have a go-to person, find the friendliest person in the room and start there. Even if they’re not the right resource, they can likely point you in the right direction.
- Learn the business. Don’t limit yourself to the tasks you are given. Take time to learn how the business runs as a whole so you understand how your work fits in to the company mission and goals, and can identify additional ways you can help.
- Identify opportunities for quick wins. As an intern, you have seven to nine weeks to demonstrate your value to the company. Ask yourself: What are areas of opportunity where you can quickly make an impact? How can you make that impact visible? Are these areas in line with the company’s priorities?
- Get feedback. During the internship, schedule meetings with your supervisor to receive feedback on your work. (Read more…)
- Meet decision-makers. It’s important you meet people outside of the department and learn what they are doing. Make yourself known to decision-makers and the HR department.
- Get to know the company culture. Culture is about people, and having an environment where they can grow, contribute and be rewarded. It’s hard to determine if you are a good fit for an organization. Fit means that you have the skills to perform a job, and the drive to use those skills effectively. It also means you are suited to the organization and its culture. How does work get gone? How do people communicate with each other? How do people act in meetings? These are just some of things that will help you succeed in the company.
Act like a full-time employee:
Be confident in your abilities. Be sure to participate in all internship and company activities. Let people get to know you and your work.
- Be curious. Soak up everything you can. When you are new, you will be overwhelmed at first. Information is coming at you fast and from all directions. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” Ask questions. Learn from everyone.
- Don’t expect a lot of hand-holding. You will need to be proactive in developing relationships and seeking out help from peers and colleagues.
- Show initiative. Ask colleagues and your boss what you can do. Don’t wait for them to come to you. Instead, go to them and show you are willing to do whatever it takes.
- Pay attention to office etiquette. Internships are summer-long interviews. Everything you do and say is evaluated by others in the organization. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is not understanding there are certain codes and rules to abide by in the workplace. If you’re not careful, you may even lose opportunities because others are put off by your lack of professionalism.
- Keep track. Keep a record of your milestones and tasks you completed. This will serve as both proof of the value you’ve added to the company, and all this data and the success stories will help your resumé.
- Be a team player. Form collaborative partnerships with the department members and the other interns. Be a giver not a taker.
Plan your exit strategy:
You want to leave a good impression at the end of your internship. Even if you didn’t like working there, it’s important to leave on good terms.
- Let your employer know you are interested in a full-time position. Assuming you liked the work, people and culture, you want to let your immediate supervisor/boss know your interest. Ask for his/her advice on the best way to pursue an opportunity. Periodically check-in to remind your supervisor of your interest in a full time position after graduation.
- Give a final presentation. Find time to give a department-wide presentation of the work you’ve been doing. If there are other interns in the office, be sure to include them.
- Smoothly transition off all your projects. If projects you’ve worked on are not complete, make sure you document what you did and debrief a full-time member of the team.
- Send a proper goodbye email. On your last day, it’s a best practice to send an email to the people you worked with during the internship. Let them know why you’re leaving (e.g. you’re going back to school) and how to reach you. Thank specific individuals you worked closely with or those who offered you mentorship.
- Exit interview. As you near the end of your internship, schedule a meeting with your supervisor to talk about your performance and possibilities of continuing your employment at the company. Bring your list of accomplishments, and show them exactly how you’ve proven yourself valuable.
- Stay in touch. Connect with everyone you’ve worked through LinkedIn, and make sure to send them a quick email from time-to-time to keep yourself top of mind.
- Update your resumé and LinkedIn Profile. There’s no better time than when what you’ve done and accomplished are fresh. Read more about resumes and LinkedIn.
Use your internship to your advantage by being able to share what you’ve done, maintaining strong relationships, and growing your professional network.
Author: Jane Horowitz is a career-launch coach and founder of More Than A Resumé. Jane has championed college students in their job searches from colleges and universities across the country, and with majors from engineering to fine arts, from computer design to banking. Jane has made a measurable and lasting difference in college students’ lives.