It’s time to ditch "The Devil Wears Prada" notion of the coffee-fetching, copy-making intern. When it comes to getting your foot in the door after college, internships can play a crucial role in gaining first-hand experience, skills, and connections. In fact, the Chronicle of Higher Education reveals that of all the various factors employers considered prior to hiring a post-graduate candidate, experience held the most weight, especially internship experience. And what better way to gain relevant experience with the company you want to work for than by starting out as an intern?
What most employers won’t tell you is how to use your internship as a tool for snagging a full-time position within the company. According to the results of a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), the average offer rate to interns is approximately 73 percent, the highest since the peak of the pre-recession market. So with all the data in your favor, here are some tips to ensure that your title as intern turns into something lasting:
Think of yourself as a constant candidate.
As an intern, you're being “test driven” by your company. You’ve passed the interview, finished orientation, and settled into your space, but now you face the ultimate test: ensuring you’re a good fit for the company. Every day of your internship you're making an impression on both your employer and colleagues. While this mindset might be intimidating, it will push you to always put your best foot forward and get you into the habit of putting 110 percent into everything you do.
Still a bit nervous? Remind yourself that you’re also test driving the company, and just sit back for the ride.
Know the company inside and out.
This one may seem obvious, but truly immerse yourself in the company. Understand your company’s mission, values, and goals. As the saying goes, “knowledge is power.” During your internship, make a noticeable effort to learn everything you possibly can about the company. Once you've done this, chances are good that your employer will pick up on your expressed interest.
Demonstrate your desire to learn by asking questions. Even though at times it may feel as if you’ve asked a million questions, doing so can help you solve problems, build skills, and foster new ideas. Better yet, the more detailed the question is, the deeper the knowledge you're likely to gain, which can only serve to make you better at what you do.
Asking shows that you're engaged in the company, and won’t just benefit you in your position as an intern, but also in the long run. Questions can lead to discussions that challenge existing methods, and even help your colleagues understand new approaches they might not have considered before. Another bonus? Sometimes the best conversations begin with a thoughtful question.
Capitalize on your strengths.
You know your talents, but does your employer? Sure, your resume may be a shining testament to all the skills you say you're capable of, but your resume is meaningless until it's put into action. Rise to your employer’s expectations by capitalizing on all the skills and knowledge you possess. Flaunt your talents and fine tune any other skills necessary for your role. And most importantly, stay humble; there are always ways to improve yourself.
Write down your accomplishments and goals.
Often, your accomplishments can get hidden under all the day-to-day tasks you complete. Don’t forget to keep a record or portfolio of your most notable achievements; it’s okay to pat yourself on the back. By keeping track of your most successful work, you stay motivated towards accomplishing even greater things.
And while you’re writing down what you’ve achieved, set more goals. Setting goals and tasks you hope to accomplish will keep your thoughts organized and keep you on the path towards greater success.
Catch a fleeting idea.
Inspiration comes in all forms, and no matter what type of career field you're interning in, creativity is what sets you apart from the crowd. The Committee for Economic Development lists creativity as one of the top skills employers find desirable in a candidate, and it’s no secret that creativity is what drives innovation and problem solving. Having trouble tapping into your creative reserve? Author Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk “Your Elusive Creative Genius” describes the importance of catching that fleeting moment of inspiration every chance you get. The next time a crazy idea pops into your head, jot it down; it just may be the idea that gets you hired.
Establish a mutual understanding.
Your employer isn’t a mind reader. Make sure you let them know well in advance that you're interested in a full-time position after your internship. Keeping open communication about your interest allows them to evaluate their needs and the type of long-term role you would have in the company. By giving your employer an advance notice to make this decision, you demonstrate consideration for others. Be understanding of their time and don’t be overly persistent.
Keeping clear intentions about where you want your internship to lead is the most obvious way to inform your employer that you’re serious about joining the team.
Have a bright outlook.
Your attitude says a lot about you. The results of a brief study conducted by the Harvard Business Review suggests a correlation between happiness in the workplace and higher productivity. The study found that when employees practiced simple daily activities – from writing down three things they were thankful for to meditating at their desk for two minutes – there was a significant increase in productivity indicators. Over the course of months, this type of happiness had turned into a habit for employees.
Happiness can be shared. The same study describes the benefits of providing social support to coworkers. When you offer to help your coworkers out with tasks or take off a bit of their workload, you're 10 times more likely to be engaged in the workplace than those who don't offer to help. And not only being willing to help will benefit you, but might also lift the attitudes of those you work with.
Regardless of whether you land a full-time position after your internship or not, be grateful of the experience you have gained from your time spent. Think of your employer and colleagues’ everlasting patience and rock-solid guidance every time they taught you a menial task, or when you pelted them with your millions of questions! They're the unexpected teachers in your career journey.
Keep it up.
You got the job … now what? A full-time position is a much more than just a prestigious title and increased salary. Keep working hard. Even on your worst days, don’t forget the reasons why you chose to be a part of the team. Your learning experience doesn’t end when your internship does; you will discover something new each day. Be open to different ideas, criticisms, and perspectives; they'll unlock skills you never knew you had.
Best of luck, and enjoy every second of the ride – the destination is worth it.