Almost every successful business person started as an intern. And it isn’t hard to see why. An internship is a great foot in the door if you want to work with a company. At the same time it is far from guaranteed that you’ll end up with the position you’re after when you join up for a summer program. In fact, you’ll probably have some stiff competition. For that reason, you’ve got to take the right approach to converting an internship into something more.
Today we’re going to take a look at what you need to do to get there.
Identify your strengths and do the research
In fact, the transitioning of your internship into a job begins even before you’ve got the internship. The first step, you see, is to make certain that the internship actually suits your skill set. Because only if it does are you going to be able to shine and demonstrate to the company that they would be crazy to let you go.
For that reason you need to know what you’re actually good at and then take an internship that suits those strengths to a tee. Only then can you excel enough to outshine the competition. Want to find out if a field is actually for you through an internship? You’re probably a little late for that if you’re also looking for a job. Shouldn’t you have done that instead during your freshmen, sophomore and junior year? This isn’t your first job, is it?
Don’t let the internship be your first job
Because then it’s going to be hard to transition that internship into actual employment. Because however good you might understand the job requirements, if the internship is your first job you’re going to struggle. The corporate world isn’t something you can learn from a distance. There are certain skills, such as soft skills, that you’re only ever really going to get to grips with hands on.
And that means you’ have to get out there and get your hands dirty. That’s the only way you can learn that stuff.
So, while you’re looking for that perfect internship, get some work experience! It doesn’t have to be something that you want to do long term, just as long as it gets you some experience with how a business actually works and how employees are expected to behave and interact.
Watch your grooming
Most of us are incredibly superficial, which is ironic because we don’t think we are. That doesn’t make it less true, however. Research, for example, has demonstrated that just being well dressed makes people think you’re smarter. And that is obviously what you’re always after.
So get a haircut, put on some nice clothes, learn to use an ironing board and look respectable. One thing to note, if you’re a woman do not dress sexy. That will not help you (or will help you with exactly the kind of people you don’t want to be working for). So watch the revealing cleavage and the height of your skirts. After all, you want to be hired for the right reasons, right?
Show up early
The great thing about showing up before other people is that they don’t know when you actually showed up. You might have only been in the door ten minutes, but they don’t know that. As far as they know you’ve been there for hours.
And that makes you look eager, enthusiastic and most certainly reflects well on you. So make certain you always arrive early and are hard at work by the time the others come in. You’ll become known as ‘that hard working intern who is always here before everybody else’ and that’s a nice place to be in.
Or sigh, or roll your eyes or in any way demonstrate that you’re not eager unless they’re being incredibly unfair on you (in which case you probably don’t want to work there anyway). And I’m serious about this. Nobody likes a moaner, or a complainer – particularly when you don’t have to do that much work anyway (which quite often you don’t when you’re doing intern work).
So what if they asked you to get coffee? Go get it with a smile! Yes, it might be below you, but if you’re serious about getting the job, then doing tasks that you think of as being below you is just something you’re going to have to put up with.
In fact, you should see this as a learning experience. There is quite some evidence that those people who end up higher up after working their way through the lower ranks do significantly better than those that don’t. And it’s easy to see why. They understand what it is like to be a grunt – and that ability to identify goes a long way to making a company run smoothly. So see your time in the trenches for what it is – a learning experience that shows you every aspect of the business.
It’s okay not to know everything. Nobody does. And that goes double for an intern. So ask! That’s how you learn, grow and develop. And you know how you get fired? By pretending to know how to do a task when you don’t have a clue and then completely screwing it up so that somebody else has to do it again.
Now that is probably a fate that you don’t want. So bite the bullet, accept that you might look a little ignorant, and ask the questions so that next time you do know what’s going on.
There are two kinds of people in this world, proactive and reactive. And every business worth its salt is after the former and hoping to avoid the latter. Why? Because reactive people wait with fixing a problem until it’s ballooned out of control, while proactive people will nip it in the butt before it is even really a problem.
Want to be seen as being proactive? Then show initiative. That means make suggestions, ask the follow up questions and try to identify problem areas before they’ve become problem areas. This won’t only make your work easier and help you keep sane, but will also help you get noticed by the bosses.
Yes, it’s only an internship, but you’ve got to treat it like a real job. That’s the way you show to the people in the company that you’re capable of far more. So be an eager beaver. Show up on time. Don’t go home until the boss does. Put your social life on hold for a while. And for god’s sake, don’t download the latest game to your phone!
Avoid distraction. Focus on the task at hand. And make certain that you get that big job with the fat pay check. Because once you’ve got that you can really start living! And who could ever argue against that?