An internship is a terrific opportunity to gain experience in the industry of your choice, but if you’re like most interns, you’re thinking about the end game: a paying job. So, how do you turn a few lines on your resume into the first real job in your new career?
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- Pick and Choose Wisely
A word to the wise: Choose your internship the way you would choose your dream job. Every internship opportunity should be treated as a viable career opportunity, because that’s essentially what internships are – gateways to your dream career. Do some research on companies in your industry that offer internship programs and start narrowing down your prospects from there. Remember, not all internships are paid internships, but don’t let that be the deciding factor of whether or not you’ll take the offer – because even unpaid internships are golden for your career. The last thing you want is to take any old internship that comes your way and find out later that it’s a waste of time, when you could have taken a bit more time to find the one that is right for you.
- Mind Your Manners
Now that you’ve landed that sweet internship, it’s time to not screw it up. Most interns have something of a love-hate relationship with their internship; you may not like it all the time, but you know that it’s good for your career. It’s wise to remember “the good” when the going gets tough, like when you’re delegated tasks that seem menial or pointless (e.g. making copies). Be courteous to everyone you meet, because you never know who knows whom in the office and the business world.
- Dress the Part
Just because you’re an intern, doesn’t mean you can’t dress like a professional. You want to impress your supervisors and present yourself in a way that makes it look like you blend in with the full-timers. If you’re interning for a company that has a very lax dress code, then use your best judgment. As they say, dress for the job you want, not the job you have, so pay attention to how your supervisor and his boss dress and gain inspiration from them.
- Be Proactive, Not Reactive
The point of being an intern is to gain experience with a potential employer and learn as much as you can while you’re there, so take the initiative and ask others if they need help with their work. Offering a helping hand before being asked will show your colleagues that you’re a self-starter and committed to being productive. Of course, if you’re hounding employees for work and being more of a nuisance than helpful, then you’re probably going to wear out your welcome very quickly. Take some time to learn what everyone does so that you can approach the people who are working on projects that interest you.
- Network Like Crazy
You’ve got your foot in the door at your dream employer (albeit as an intern) take advantage of the opportunity to network your little heart out. Don’t go around interrupting people to introduce yourself and tell them your story – let it happen naturally. Most likely, you will be introduced to your closest co-workers, but also take note of the people with whom they work. For instance, get to know the admins, assistants, other interns, and anyone else who is directly affiliated or connected with the people you’re helping out. This is the best way to grow your network in the office organically and make a name for yourself during your internship.
- Be Curious, But Be Respectful
If something outside of your workload sparks your interest, don’t hesitate to inquire about it – but please do it respectfully. Again, you’ll shoot yourself in the foot if you badger people left and right, so I’d suggest sending an email introducing yourself and include your inquiry thereafter. Likewise, if you have a question about your work, then don’t hesitate to ask your supervisor. Your supervisor and the other employees understand that you’re there to learn and possibly work full-time with them eventually, so use your time there wisely and gain as much knowledge as you can.
- Add Value and Go the Extra Mile
In her Turn Your Internship Into a Promising Career With These X Tips article for Fortune, Joyce Russell states that the best way to turn an internship into a full-time job is to “find ways to add value.” She suggests that interns use their “education and street smarts” to think of creative ways to go the extra mile. Russell goes on to give an example of when she was out of town and went back to her hotel in between events. She hadn’t eaten, so she asked the front desk if they had an apple for her to snack on. Unfortunately, they didn’t.
As she was leaving the hotel, after going to her room for a quick minute, she was met by one of the front desk personnel who was holding a platter with a red and a green apple for her, because he wasn’t sure which color apple she preferred.
“Deliver the unexpected,” Russell says. “If you strive to bring ‘apples’ to the table every day during your internship, you will earn yourself a full-time position.”
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