If you are a new or recent graduate or a career changer, you may have found that the gateway to your chosen field involves an experience such as a postgraduate internship.
Whether you didn't have the opportunity as an undergraduate to build the preferred profile of experience to enter your field, or if the traditional route of entry is through an internship, you'll want to make the most of your time in order to improve your chances of landing a job afterward.
Make some inquiries up front before committing to the internship to determine if the prospective employer has a history of offering full time jobs to high-performing interns.
12 Tips for Turning an Internship into a Job
Here are some tips and strategies to increase your chances of securing that entry-level job.
1. As soon as you begin your internship, take every opportunity to introduce yourself to co-workers in as many roles and departments as possible. Capitalize on your status as the new intern who is curious about the roles that individuals play and the focus of various departments. You'll want to make a game out of how many times you can introduce yourself to someone new, saying something like:
Hi! I'm Sarah the new intern in Marketing and I'm trying to get a good feel for what goes on around here.
What is your role and what is the mission of your Department? Maybe we can grab a coffee some day and talk some more?
2. Be ready to share with your new colleagues a concise summary of your interests and assets. You can then ask seasoned professionals to brainstorm with you regarding where those skills and interests might be best applied within their area of work.
Try to include a couple of your passions, along with three or four areas of knowledge or expertise. For example, you might say:
I graduated as an English Major with minors in marketing and communications, I love to write and I composed ads for the college newspaper.
I'm fascinated by why people choose to buy stuff and got really positive feedback from faculty regarding my marketing analysis with case projects. I was very active with my sorority and enjoyed planning and promoting events in my role as social chair.
3. Exude positivity at all times. Be your best, congenial self, wear a ready smile and bring a "can do" attitude to work every day. Employers look for full-time employees who are a pleasure to have around and who are willing to do whatever it takes to move the team forward. Wipe the phrase "it's not my job" from your consciousness. Do the little things and grunt work often assigned to an intern with a smile.
4. Try to arrive earlier than your boss if it's possible, and stay late as well. Establish that you have a strong work ethic and are not afraid to devote lots of time and energy to your work.
5. Find out what people are reading to learn about trends and best practices in their field. Start to read those journals, blogs, magazines, and newspapers. Ask questions about emerging trends and how they might relate to your department and employer. Explore the possibility of participating in any professional development workshops or seminars offered by your employer.
Employers want staff who are eager to learn and will keep up with developments in their field. But, remember to proceed with humility—don't act like a know-it-all. A curious approach couched in modesty will serve you best.
6. Treat the colleagues you meet as if you hope or expect that they will be mentors. If they realize that you view them as a mentor, then they may well start to act as one. Ask them for advice about job options and strategies for securing full-time work after they get to know you for awhile. Co-workers who are mentors will be more likely to point out jobs or recommend you for positions since they will feel it is expected of them in that role.
7. Look for opportunities to extend interactions with potential mentors beyond the workplace. Offer to buy them a cup of coffee to pick their brain. Tag along for the after-work happy hour. If they start to see you as a friend, then they will be more likely to advocate for you. Be careful about the side of yourself which you reveal in these more informal settings. For example, don't indulge in that extra drink or be flirtatious. You can be friendly but still professional, and as an intern, it's important to err on the side of professionalism.
8. Be opportunistic about your involvement with projects. Notice who is under pressure and needs help, and offer to provide assistance. If your department is short-staffed due to emerging demands or turnover, look to insert yourself into those projects. Volunteer to stay late to help, and have an eye towards projects that provide an opportunity for you to master and document higher level skills.
Consult with your supervisor to make sure she is comfortable with any overtures to other departments before proceeding. If you haven't been assigned enough work to keep you busy, ask your boss "What can I do to make your life easier?"
9. Express gratitude to everyone who helps you. Provide a handwritten thank you note to your emerging mentors when they do something to help you. They can put it on their desk and be proud that they were helpful, and will likely look for other opportunities to assist you in the future.
10. After you have been working for a few weeks, ask your supervisor if you could meet briefly to discuss your progress. Look for regular opportunities to do so throughout your internship. Halfway through your experience, ask them what it would take for you to move into a full-time job.
Be prepared to share what you have learned, why you would be interested, and how you think you could add value to the company.
If there are absolutely no possibilities with that employer or if you think another type of work would be a better fit, ask how they might help you secure external employment.
Mention that you are looking to do informational interviews with professionals in the field and would welcome any introductions to their contacts.
11. Develop your LinkedIn profile fully and link to as many employees at your firm as possible. If you shift your search to outside jobs, ask these individuals for introductions to their contacts. Here's what to include in your LinkedIn profile.
12. Keep a journal of your internship activities and note the times when you have added value. This list of mini accomplishments will be useful when it comes time to ask your boss for a full-time position. If you are already receiving a stipend or other modest compensation, this information will come in handy as you request more substantial or regular pay.
Be Prepared to Explain Why You're Worth The Pay
When you request new compensation, you should always be prepared to furnish a rationale regarding why you deserve the pay. Emphasize specifics about how you have helped your department to reach their goals.
The best time to ask for added compensation is after an accomplishment or when staff have recognized your contributions.
Notice your supervisor's moods: is there a time of day or week when she seems to be in a more positive frame of mind or less distracted by the pressures of her job? If so, that's the time to ask.