Internships are an excellent option for any college student or new graduate. They're especially useful for those looking to break into a particularly competitive field or industry. Many of the top global firms offer internships to enthusiastic and ambitious individuals.
For those businesses, internships provide a great way to dip into and assess a deep talent pool. From an intern’s perspective, a good internship will, at the very least, add some experience to their CV.
In the best-case scenario, it may lead to a full-time job with the firm. What, though, can interns do to give themselves the best chance of landing that permanent role? The following are eight important yet straightforward pieces of advice.
Find an Internship That’s the Right Fit
Internships provide experience and help you build the skills to develop a career. As much as you may want any position, taking the wrong internship may set you on the wrong path. If you’re not a good fit for the position, you’re also less likely to be able to turn it into a full-time job.
Say, for instance, you’re a technophobe or have never been tech minded. You won’t be able to make the best of an internship with a firm like Ringcentral which specializes in VoIP or another cutting-edge telecom technology. You’re better served waiting for an internship that plays to your strengths.
Make a Good Impression
You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. It’s an old adage, but it still holds. Try to make sure that you’re showing them the best of yourself. That starts with being on time and on point with any application process for the internship.
Before you start your internship, find out as much as you can about the business. Try to understand the mission and values of the organization. On a more practical level, find out the company rules or guidelines. Discover if the organization has a dress code. If it does, make sure you follow it on your first day. Other policies to learn and think about from day one of an internship include:
Establish Goals & Expectations
When you start an internship, an organization often sits you down to discuss the role you’re going to play. It’s tempting to approach this process passively. Many interns will sit across from a supervisor, nod, and agree to everything they say. It’s important to respect any supervisor and deliver what they want from you, but it’s also good to speak up.
If you’re unsure of anything about your role, make sure to ask. Beyond that, it’s also good to ask for some overarching goals. These will be objectives to aim for while you’re with the company. Those goals will help you understand what the most critical aspects of your role are. Asking to be given such goals will show a supervisor how enthusiastic and ambitious you are.
Show a Strong Work Ethic
No firm, no matter how high-level it may be, will expect you to deliver a faultless performance from day one. Nor will an organization expect you to know everything about your role as soon as you arrive. You’re allowed to ask questions and even to make mistakes. What no firm will accept, however, is an intern who doesn’t show a willingness to work hard.
You must establish and display a strong work ethic, one that’s clear for colleagues and supervisors to see. Make sure you show a willingness to get all assigned tasks done on time. That may mean working longer hours or taking on extra responsibility. But be careful not to take this to the extreme. You’re still an intern, so you shouldn’t feel obligated to be working 24/7. When reviewing the work you have completed, consider the 80/20 productivity rule.
How you approach certain tasks is almost as important as getting them done on time. Interns will sometimes have to perform easy, repetitive, and—dare we say—tedious tasks. Make sure to approach those tasks with enthusiasm. Show your employer how grateful you are to play any role at all in their operation. This can help set you apart from the crowd when leveraging a full-time position in the future.
Be Proactive & Demonstrate Initiative
Remember throughout your internship that you’re there to learn and to develop. The best way to do so isn’t always to sit in a corner and get on quietly with the task you’re assigned. You will, of course, need to do a lot of that. When appropriate and where possible, however, try to be proactive and get the most out of your role.
When you complete tasks, use your initiative to find other ways you can help out. You might offer to take some work off the plate of a colleague. You may be able to take in some optional training. It might be something as simple as answering a few emails. Whatever you do, it will be a valuable learning experience. What you’re shooting for is to be as productive as possible when you’re at the workplace.
Show a Willingness to Learn & Improve
You learned as much as you could about the business offering your internship before you started work. At least, you ought to have. That learning process shouldn’t stop once work starts. When you’re at the firm, you can learn a lot more.
Attend workshops and seminars, and ask lots of questions. It will help show your dedication. It also makes it easier for you to judge if you want to work at the firm full time. As well as learning about the business, an internship should provide you the opportunity to learn about yourself. You may find out that there’s a facet of the business that interests you more than the area you thought you’d like to work in.
Develop Your Network
Being an intern at a big company can bring a wide range of benefits. As well as experience and the opportunity to learn, it also puts you in touch with a whole new group of people. Developing a good rapport and friendly relationships with colleagues is crucial for any intern.
Getting on well with those around you makes it easier for you to work as a team. Teamwork and collaboration are skills employers value. What’s more, developing relationships with colleagues can deliver tangible benefits.
If your colleagues see you as a valued team member, they might lobby on your behalf to get you a full-time position. Even if they can’t help you stay on at your current firm, having a strong professional network will help your future job hunt. They may be able to refer you to friends and colleagues with other organizations, be it for an open position or an informational interview.
Be Clear That You Want a Full-Time Role
Ensure that you’ve made it clear during your internship that a full-time role is what you’re looking for. Don’t assume that your supervisor will realize that’s what you’re aiming for. Many people take internships for the experience, rather than to aim for a full-time position, so be clear with your supervisors about what you want.
When it feels appropriate, tell a superior that you’d like to work at the business full time. It will show your level of passion for the company. It also means you’ll be in their mind if and when a permanent position does become available. This is where your network can come into play, too. If the people you work with during your internship know you want to stay with the company, they can help be your advocates when positions open up.
Internships: Making Sure a Business Will Miss You Too Much
An internship can be key in shaping your career. The best internship programs give students, new graduates, and others seeking experience the chance to work at some of the world’s leading firms. While there, interns can build their skills, learn about themselves, and add some valuable content to their resumes.
To turn an internship into a full-time job, an intern must convince their employer that they’re invaluable. You must prove that the business will miss you if they let you go. Show a willingness to work hard, even on tedious tasks. Demonstrate a desire to learn and to improve. Become a valued and popular member of the team. Do all that, and you’ll have the best chance of going from an intern to a permanent employee.
Sam O'Brien is the Senior Website Optimisation & User Experience Manager for EMEA at RingCentral, a global VOIP systems provider. Sam has a passion for innovation and loves exploring ways to collaborate more with dispersed teams.
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