Mary Lorenz, CareerBuilder writer
Whether you’re on the verge of graduating from college or have a few more credits to go, getting an internship is one of the smartest moves you can make as an undergrad. If you go about it the right way (and if the timing is right), your internship may lead to a full-time job offer down the line.
If you’re hoping to secure a full-time position with the company where you are interning, then think of your internship as an extended job interview – a chance to prove you are ready, willing and eager to take on whatever comes your way. Follow these 10 steps to help you go from college intern to full-fledged employee.
1.Learn the unwritten rules of the office. A lot of companies have “unwritten rules” regarding how to dress and behave. For instance, some companies are cool with employees rolling in a little later than typical office hours, so long as they finish their work, while other companies might not be so lax. Pay attention to how your manager and co-workers dress, behave and interact at the office to get a feel for the office “culture.” Not only will it help you adapt quickly to the environment, but it will also help you assess whether or not the company is the right fit for you long term.
2.Be the ultimate professional. This means dressing appropriately (sorry, pajama pants and flip flops are NOT considered “business casual”), arriving on time and staying late if needed, staying off social media (unless it’s part of your job) and using it responsibly when you’re on. If you take the job seriously, the more likely your boss is to take you seriously as a prospective future employee.
3.Own up to your mistakes. Even the most seasoned employees make mistakes at work, so as someone brand new to the workforce, it’s inevitable that you will make a few missteps yourself. What separates bad employees from good employees, however, is not the mistakes themselves, but how they recover from those mistakes. If you make a mistake on the job, show your boss that you have the maturity to own up to it and the sense to learn from it.
4.Make use of your downtime. A lot of times, there isn’t much formal organisation around internships – which means there may be days when you don’t have much to do. Instead of wasting your time on Facebook, make yourself useful. Ask around to see if there’s anything you can help with. Better yet, suggest your own projects. Your manager will notice, appreciate and remember the way you took initiative and showed enthusiasm for your job.
5.Under promise and over deliver. Always do more than what is expected of you for every assignment. Do extra research, double-check your work and, if presenting something, provide more than one option. If a challenge comes up, think about how you can solve it on your own before going to your boss. Just be careful not to take on so much so fast that the quality of your work suffers or you can’t complete a project.
6.Get to know your co-workers. From asking a co-worker to lunch to volunteering to help with a company event, take every opportunity to get to know your co-workers better. While this entails venturing outside your comfort zone, by doing so, you will build a network of people you can go to for help, guidance and insight both during your internship and beyond.
7.Be direct about what you want. Before you leave, let your manager know you’re interested in staying on full time and ask if there are any openings. Even if there isn’t an immediate opening for you, you never know what will open up down the line. When that happens, your manager will be more likely to consider you first, knowing you already have an interest in the company.
8.Ask for feedback. If it’s not already scheduled, ask your boss for a performance review, which will give you an idea of what you did right and where you have areas you can improve. This will also show your manager your devotion to doing a good job and developing your skills.
9.Say “thank you.” When your internship ends, write handwritten notes to your manager and anyone else in the company you may have worked with. Thank them for the learning experience and the time they spent with you. The thought and effort that went into an “old school” thank-you note will not go unnoticed and will definitely be remembered.
10.Stay in touch. Don’t let your relationships end when your internship does. Connect with your manager – as well as anyone else you interacted with at the company – on LinkedIn. Not only will staying in touch ensure you stay top of mind with these people should they hear of anything that might fit your skills and interests, they can also act as mentors or offer advice and guidance as you navigate your next steps.