A new semester is about to start at colleges and universities all across the U.S., which means that thousands of students are about to start an internship concurrent with their studies. For some students, an internship is a chance to see if they’re really interested in a particular career, but for others it’s what they hope will be their first steps within that career. The big question always is, how can I turn the internship—whether paid or unpaid—into a permanent, full-time position?
If you Google the title of today’s blog entry, you will get nearly 7000 hits, but most of the ones I looked at either give the same information in different forms, contain broken links, or provide input specific to a particular career. However, a list compiled by Matt Tarpey, a writer for Career Builder.com, does a good job of making concrete suggestions:
Dress appropriately. This doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe, but you will want to be sure that you dress professionally. No jeans, no sneakers, no t-shirts. . .or at least not any of those things until you’ve interned within the organization long enough to know that’s the expectation for people doing the work you hope to be hired to do.
Behave professionally. This means that you need to show up on time, act responsibly, and do your work promptly and well, but it also means that you need to show that you’re someone who gets along well with others. In most organizations, you need to work with a team of people, so be sociable and friendly (in addition to trustworthy and competent!).
Ask questions. Interns (and new employees) are not expected to already know how to do everything, so be sure you ask questions that will help you do your job well. The best time to ask is when you’re first given an assignment. By repeating back to the supervisor what it is that you think you’re being asked to do, you’ll help ensure that you do a better job with less revision and fewer “do-overs.” And, if you’re being assigned a complex task, write down the instructions and refer to them to keep yourself on track while doing the work.
Ask for feedback. When you complete an assignment, find out if you did it well or if there were things that you could have done better. Be sure that your supervisor knows you’re committed to getting it right. . .and also let him or her know if you think this is a place where you would like to work permanently. (But keep it to yourself if you’ve decided that this is not a place you want to work permanently!) By asking for feedback and constantly working to meet expectations, you demonstrate a commitment to the organization that should help you gain consideration if there is a full-time opening.
Accept responsibility. If you make mistakes—and you will make mistakes—acknowledge your responsibility, apologize for the error, and fix it (if it’s something that can be fixed). Make sure you understand what it is that you did wrong, assure your supervisor it won’t happen again, and try your hardest to never make the same mistake in the future. Do not try to lay the blame on someone else or argue that what you did is acceptable. That type of response can put an end to your chance for paid employment in that organization.