Getting an internship is one of the best things a student can do to jump-start their professional career. While a paid internship is always preferable, even unpaid internships offer valuable on-site job experience that just can’t be obtained through college. In fact, 61.4% of students in a 2014 study had previous internship experience before they were offered a job.
Internships give students an excellent platform on which to build their careers, whether they plan on staying with the company long term or not. If, however, an intern finds that the company they’re working for is a good fit, they might find themselves asking, “What can I do to land this position?” Fortunately, when the right steps are taken, an internship can quickly and easily transition into a full-blown job offer.
Step 1: Pay Attention to Culture
Although many internships are very structured, there are some things that usually go unsaid; company culture is one of them. Though many workplaces don’t have a well-defined company culture, there are always some trends an intern can pick up on. One way to do some sleuthing is to learn about the company’s mission and discover what it values in its employees. Finding out what makes a great employee for that company gives an intern something to work toward. Take a look at the company’s social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even Snapchat to get a glimpse into what it’s like to work there. Employer review sites are also another outlet to leverage in your search for company culture insight.
Ways to learn about a potential employer's company culture, even if it's unstructured:
An intern who is investing real effort to fit in demonstrates their long-term commitment and shows everyone that they have what it takes to succeed. Their efforts pay off in higher engagement levels, and eventually, opportunities for advancement within the company.
Step 2: Make Mistakes with Grace
It’s important that a new intern doesn’t worry too much about making mistakes. Even the CEO of a company occasionally makes mistakes, so it can be expected that a brand-new worker is going to make a few more. That’s what supervisors and coworkers are there for: to help interns when they slip up.
When it comes to landing a job offer, making mistakes isn’t going to harm an intern’s chances. However, how they handle those mistakes could be a great opportunity to make a positive impact. Supervisors don’t want to hire someone who is constantly making excuses for their slip-ups and pushing the problems onto someone else. Instead, when a mistake is made, interns should acknowledge it with grace and make an honest commitment to do better in the future. Remember, research tells us that over 70% of learning on the job occurs informally. Mistakes are just that: on the job learning.
70% of learning on the job occurs informally. Why making mistakes on the job is okay:
Step 3: Always Ask for More
A great way to get a job offer out of an internship is to go the extra mile for any work that’s assigned and attempt to solve problems on their own before going for help. It helps to develop professional goals within the company and strive for a certain level of proficiency before the internship is over.
The smartest steps to take your internship to the career level:
Interns shouldn’t be satisfied with just the work they’re assigned if they want to land a full-time position. Most workplaces value initiative, so someone who asks how they can help out after their own work is completed (and completed well) will come across as a valuable asset to the company. Interns must demonstrate why the company needs them, and how it would be worse off or less profitable if they weren’t there.
Tip: Ask for work outside of your assigned department. This demonstrates a desire to know the company inside and out and indicates to supervisors that you’re in it for the long haul.
Step 4: Be Social
This step is simple: get to know people. In particular, an intern needs to build a strong relationship with a supervisor. While interns and supervisors don’t need to be best friends, there should be trust and understanding between them. The supervisor should also be one of the intern’s biggest cheerleaders: 74% of surveyed employees who hadn't celebrated accomplishments with their co-workers said they are more likely to leave their jobs.
Putting in the extra effort to be social and make friends shows that the internship isn’t just a stepping stone to something better, it shows that there’s real interest in making a career with the company. Even if an intern doesn’t manage to land the job offer, these connections become a part of their long-term professional network.
Step 5: Ask for Feedback and Be Direct
When working toward a full-time position, it’s important to find out where improvements can be made. If an intern settles into the position and is only producing the minimum amount of required work, they shouldn’t be surprised when the internship ends without any kind of offer.
If trust has been built with the direct supervisor, they should be the one an intern goes to for input. Only 58% of managers think they give enough feedback, and they may just not know where to offer advice. Interns should ask what they could be doing better and what they excel at. The right amount of feedback gives an intern direction on what to improve upon to become a top performer for the company.
Step 6: Ask for the Job
Remember, employers actually want to hire interns. In fact, 80% of employers view recruiting as the primary function of internships. The easiest way for an intern to communicate they want the job is to just ask for it. By following the above steps, an intern can make it clear throughout their entire internship that they are interested in staying with the organization.
Internships can be daunting, especially for someone who truly wants to turn it into a full-time position. Fortunately, following this advice is a good way to make starting a career a reality.
If you have any tips to share about how to turn a successful internship into a career, please tell us in the comments!