Completing an internship is one of the best ways to get introduced to the job market. We have already discussed the reasons why you should do an internship in great detail on another occasion - here we will focus on explaining how to make the best of your time as an intern in order to turn it into a full-time job.
*Data taken from 2022 research by smallbizgenius.
It is no secret that the end goal of an internship is not just to complete it - many interns are hoping to receive an offer to secure a full-time position after the “probatory period” is over. Such offers, however, aren’t handed out to just anyone. In order to be given the possibility to permanently join the team, you will need to prove that you a) really want it and b) really deserve it throughout the entire duration of your internship.
Here is how you can do it:
If you are selected for the position, then that means you already are a better fit for the team than the other candidates. The recruiters always do their best to not only match a person’s qualifications to the job, but to also pick someone whose personality will fit well with the other employees they know personally. Given how much time we spend at work, the atmosphere in the workplace is important, after all!
For your part, you need to do your best to click into place with your new team. You don’t have to become a family, but do your best to be polite and try to get to know them outside of their professional roles. Keep in mind the importance of communication, and remember that each team has a leader who is there to help you solve issues you can’t tackle on your own. It is always better to share your doubts or concerns with them rather than be uncomfortable - others will be able to pick up on it, and the atmosphere will become strained.
Aside from fitting in socially, you also need to make sure the work you do is irreplaceable. Don’t just follow orders and do the bare minimum - everyone can do that. If all you do is go with the flow, your supervisors won’t even notice if it’s you doing it or someone else. Your job as an intern is to stand out.
Internships have many advantages, but their one downside is that you are more vulnerable to being replaced than someone with a full-time position. Those bound by a signed contract have already proven that they are the right person for the job - you still need to do that. An internship is a time of which the main point is to do exactly that.
Of course, we are not saying that you should abandon your basic duties and try to get your hands on tasks that exceed your qualifications. Just make sure to take the extra step with whatever you do. If your task is to research a topic - don’t just list the information you found; analyse it and deliver a thought-through report. Don’t provide others with raw ingredients they have to process - demonstrate that you’re capable of processing them yourself and save their time. They will definitely appreciate it and take notice of the contribution you bring to the team’s work.
Your entire team might be very fond of you but in the end, not all of them will be involved in making the final decision about your future in the company. That task will belong to your supervisors - most of all your boss - so make sure they notice you and appreciate the importance of your work.
That doesn’t mean you should be a toady - that is definitely not the way to go. Don’t go out of your way to impress your team leader or boss. If the quality of work you deliver is good enough, they will notice on their own. The whole point is to not have to tell them about your achievements, but to show them what you’re capable of.
If you end up really enjoying the internship and liking all the tasks you are given, then this will come to you naturally. Don’t be afraid to show your enthusiasm. If you don’t express visible interest in your work, then nobody will be offering you to stay if they think you don’t want that - no matter how good your results may be.
How can you show you’re interested?
Remember that the main aim of an internship is to allow you to learn as much as possible. You will most likely have access to various online platforms, training programs, and courses that will provide you with the hard skills you need for the job. You will also be surrounded by people who have been doing what you hope to be doing for some time already. Take advantage of the learning resources you will be provided with, ask questions, draw on others’ experience.
Don’t be worried about asking too many questions or even suggesting to be given access to a new resource you think might be beneficial. Others will interpret your curiosity as a willingness to learn - they might even be flattered that you want to hear about their experience. Finding new ways to learn will demonstrate your true interest in pursuing the career you’re training for.
It is very common to feel as though your opinion as an intern is somehow less valuable. After all, you have less experience, less knowledge, less everything. But you do have one thing that others are lacking, no matter how long they have worked there: your own, individual, fresh point of view.
If companies weren’t interested in the contribution interns can bring, they simply would not be hiring interns. Employers value new crystals that they can shape into diamonds. They know you don’t have years of experience behind your belt - this is precisely why they’re interested in hearing your opinions.
Those who have been in the same company for a while begin to take certain things for granted - you, as fresh blood, will notice things others have learnt to omit. You have also been provided with different education than your colleagues who are 10-20 years older than you. Your viewpoint is different. You come already equipped with skills they had to take the time to learn.
We live in a world where innovation seems to be the key thought of many market leaders. And who to better bring innovation than someone new? It will be a while before you get set in your own ways, so even your very first impressions are valuable. Not all your ideas will be implemented, of course, but nobody says that none of them will. If you never voice them, you will never know, and it might just cost you your ticket to a full-time position in the company.
Interns join companies with different intentions - some are really hoping that this will be their pass to the job of their dreams, while others are more concerned about completing an internship as a part of their degree. Companies know that not all interns will want to or be able to stay long-term.
This is why you need to ensure that you make your situation clear from the very beginning. If the internship is more than just a few months of mandatory work experience for you, communicate it. Work hard to show your engagement. Drop a hint about your lack of plans to return to university for a post-graduate degree or move to a different place. Form bonds with your coworkers that will be clearly difficult to break.
If the job description of your position as an intern doesn’t specify it, then definitely ask during the interview if there is a possibility of turning your internship into full-time employment at the end. This will signal to the recruiters that you are committed and interested in dedicating more than just a few weeks or months to the company. It will also help you decide whether this particular internship is the right choice for you - if your end goal is securing a full-time position, and you are informed at the very beginning this will not be possible, then maybe it will be a waste of time and you should find another opportunity?
Ideally, your supervisor should regularly meet with you and provide you with small feedback. If they don’t, feel free to suggest such an option - 5 minutes of their time every week will not be a huge sacrifice on their side, but it could prove extremely valuable to you.
During those short meetings, go over last week’s tasks, together with your achievements and failures in completing them. Analyse why certain things did or didn’t work out, and identify areas for improvement. This will not only provide you with an opportunity to become a better employee, but it will also keep your supervisor up-to-date with the projects you’re working on. Another good idea is to go over your tasks for next week, to ensure that both you and your supervisor are on the same page.
What’s more, feel free to ask your coworkers for their feedback, too. In some cases, they might be working more closely with you than your supervisors, and therefore will have a better insight into the quality of work you provide. After hearing their opinions, draw conclusions and put real effort into making actual improvements. The others will notice you making an active effort to grow, and they will surely appreciate it.
While striving to become better, don’t hesitate to ask your colleagues for help and advice, as well. If you can’t figure something out, it will be much quicker to ask one of your coworkers to help you, rather than trying to sort it out on your own. They are all aware that you are still learning, and nobody will expect you to catch on with everything within your first week.
Of course, if you keep forgetting how to do the same things or asking the same questions over and over, they have the full right to become irritated, as this will mean you weren’t paying attention when they explained it before. But it is not uncommon to forget to cover everything while training an intern, so it’s totally okay to speak up when someone asks you to do something you’ve never done before.
The same goes for needing advice - if you’re unsure of something, it is definitely better to seek a second opinion. Teams brainstorm all the time - nobody is expected to make all decisions by themselves, least of all an intern. While trying to turn your internship into a full-time job, it is much better to play it safe and accept others’ support, rather than end up making risky decisions just because you were too shy to ask for advice.
Many interns feel like their position of an intern limits their wiggle space. That stepping out of their assigned role equals stepping outside of the line. The cliche of internships consisting of sorting through old files and making coffee is practically nonexistent by now, but if you somehow end up stuck in this position, then it will be mostly your fault.
Your role is not set in stone. You are more than welcome to offer to assist the others’ in their tasks if you find that area appealing and they need some help, even if their responsibilities might not be strictly tied to the position you’d originally applied for. Especially in smaller companies, roles often criss-cross and the boundaries between them are less defined than in big corporations.
If you are completing an internship, then it means that you most likely haven’t had experience working in the industry before. And if don’t have experience, how can you know what exactly you’re interested in? Remember that the purpose of an internship is to “test-drive” a career - it might turn out that you’ll end up pursuing a slightly different direction than you’d originally planned. Signing up to projects - even coming up with ideas for them - will be appreciated by your colleagues.
So, there you go. As you have probably already noticed, the key to turn your internship into a full-time job is mostly working hard and making the best of your opportunity. If you get the position, then it already means that the recruiters have decided that you deserve it. All you need to do afterwards is to keep proving that.
The truth is, you will instinctively know what to do once you start your internship. If it really is a good fit and you end up loving the position and the company, you will automatically put effort into everything you do because you will simply enjoy it. Real engagement cannot be faked, so if your coworkers notice your enthusiasm - and if it’s supported by good results - they will most likely refuse to let you go once the internship ends.