How to get from intern to employee.
We spend the first several years of our young adult life stressing over grades, internships and relationship troubles. Life is full of little worries, and while we can’t help with the other troubles, there is a way to take one big stressor off your plate – landing your first full-time job.
Did you know companies often hire their interns after the student’s internship is complete? Yes, that’s right; your first big break may come from pouring coffee and fetching copies. Internships offer a valuable inside connection with the hiring manager and other top managers.
Think of your internship as an extended interview. Beyond doing a good job and messing up the coffee order, here are a few steps to turn your internship into a full-time job.
Find a mentor, not an advocate.
First, these are two very distinct people. An advocate is a professional who loves to buddy with the interns. Be nice to them–they may come in handy later on, but don’t spend too much time buddying with them. You need a mentor, someone who will show you the ropes and take you under their wing to help you move ahead. Mentors will critique your work, offer career advice and give honest feedback, whether you want it or not.
Another great benefit to having a mentor is recommendations. Impressing the advocate is easy. On the other hand, your mentor is not as easy to impress. They will not provide a recommendation unless they mean it, making it more valuable to the hiring manager.
Be friendly, and get to know everyone in the office.
Yes, you should look to your mentor for guidance. But never neglect the other team members. Remember the golden rule of advertising – the more exposure you get; the more sales you win. The same is true in the office. Ask if you can join some of the older team members during lunch. Get to know your colleagues before talking about your future in the office. Once you feel the time is right, start discussing how you would love to make this a full-time job and not just an internship.
While it’s okay to spend time with your colleagues, never neglect your own work responsibilities. Make sure your projects are finished, and never make friends on company time. Wait until lunch or take a coffee break. The point is to network, not send a message you’re a slacker and don’t want to work. On the same note, don’t distract your superiors from their work. They’re charged with mentoring interns and tackling large projects.
The early bird gets the worm, and busy bees earn the honey.
Yes, this may seem a little obvious. Many interns simply forget the value of time management and prioritizing. Invest in one of those little daytimers or use the calendar on your smartphone. Schedule projects, school and internships. Never arrive at your internship late. Remember the old saying – if you’re on time, you’re 15 minutes late. Take this to heart. Arrive 15 minutes early each day, and use the time to organize your desk, read memos and emails or prioritize your day. Others will notice and write a shining recommendation at the end of your internship.
Time management also may require you to take the initiative. Unless you’re one of the fortunate interns to land a position with the most organized company, you’re going to have some extra time on your hands. Companies tend to focus more on maintaining the status quo than scheduling intensive schedules for interns. But this works to your advantage. Be prepared to ask for tasks each day. Don’t wait for someone to reach out to you. Be careful how you phrase your request. Start with “I’d love to help,” and never make it seem like you have nothing to do.
Stay in close contact with your manager.
Sadly, most managers neglect their interns once they start. Whether they simply forget or run out of time, you may have to take the initiative here as well. Stay in regular communication with your manager, either in person or by email. Consider emailing your manager at the end of each week, describing what you’ve learned. Briefly, describe one or two projects you worked on and explain what you took away from the experience. Don’t forget to mention your accomplishments as well.
Your manager has the final word regarding a full-time position. During your internships, preferably towards the final two weeks, request a sit-down interview and discuss your desires with your manager. Tell them you want to work for the company as a full-time employee. But keep other options open as well. If there are no positions available, or if the manager thinks you aren’t ready for a full-time role, ask if you can stay on as a paid intern as opposed to earning college credits.
What should you do on your last day?
Many companies send their interns off in style – music, cake, balloons and party favors. This is the time to thank everyone for their help and guidance. Prior to your last day, write thank you notes for each person in the office. Don’t buy those corny, bulk packaged notes and sign your name. Create a unique note for each person. Tell them just how they helped you during your internship. Include a copy of your business card and invite them to connect with in the future. Go to each person and personally thank them. Not only is it a nice thing to do, but the extra touch will help them remember you when those full-time jobs open up.
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