This is my favorite challenge. Let’s face it, what’s the point of doing internships anyway?
Yes, to get hands-on experience. But in the end, many college students are looking for that job offer.
Internships are not only beneficial for you to test-drive a career; they’re beneficial for your employer to see what your skills really are on a more in-depth level than just an interview and resume. They get to see you in action.
So how do you turn an internship into a job? Two words: be irreplaceable.
Make yourself worth something to the company. Add value to the position you’re in, and you’ll be irreplaceable. If you’re just stuck doing coffee runs and licking envelopes, they can find someone else to fill your shoes in two seconds. But, if you’re bringing new ideas to the company or increasing their following on social media, you’re giving yourself value as an employee.
You know you have value when you leave your internship to go back to school and the company feels that it’s missing “something.” What they’re missing, is you.
I’ve had quite a few interns with my company Headbands of Hope. Unfortunately, most of them were replaceable…except for one.
My first ever hire with my company was an intern that blew my socks off. She started as a campus representative at her school. Fast forward a couple months down the road, she was head of all the campus reps in the nation.
Eventually, I stopped giving her tasks because she was so good at creating her own tasks that I didn’t want to waste her efforts on things I could do myself. As an intern, she was my go-to person for events or any networking opportunities I couldn’t make. She gained my trust to be the face of the company when I couldn’t.
Needless to say, she was hired immediately following her graduation. When an employer finds someone who’s irreplaceable, they have a very hard time letting them just leave, whether there’s a position available or not. Even if the company isn’t hiring at the time, they’ll make room for someone who proves his or her value.
Here are some steps to turn an internship into a job:
1. Arrive Early
This may seem simple, but being there before your boss walks in every day says a lot about your work ethic. Notice how I didn’t say, “Leave late.” I don’t think leaving late says as much as coming early. I appreciate employees who find efficient and effective ways to do their work and don’t need to work into the night. Arrive early, and work efficiently.
2. Don’t Wait for Tasks
If you wait for tasks to come to you, you’ll most likely get the stereotypical “intern” ones: filling coffee, licking envelopes, or making cold calls. But, if you’re proactive and create your own tasks, you’ll prove yourself as a “real” employee and your supervisors can see your value. If you take the initiative and put some great ideas together for say their annual fundraiser, your next task will probably not include making coffee…unless it’s coffee for you because of all the professional tasks that were just handed to you.
I remember when I interned at NBC’s TODAY Show in New York City, every once in a while they’d bring interns into their staff meetings. Everyone would go around the room and say an idea if they had one. Most interns were under the impression that these meetings were to “observe how meetings work.” However, those are the kind of interns that write down sandwich orders.
When I spoke my ideas, a lot of them were shut down, just like other producers. But all it takes is that one idea that they run with. For me, it was a rock paper scissors robot that predicted what you’d throw and won every time. Who knew that was the pitch that they’d choose? No matter what business meeting you’re in or what your profession, contribute in front of people in meetings. It shows that you’re not afraid and you’re prepared with ideas.
4. Make Your Work Measurable
It’s one thing to bring a “positive attitude” to work every day, but it’s another to have measurable success that can be seen by your supervisors. What will get you hired are increased sales through the clients you yourself worked with. Or increased “likes” on Facebook after you started doing their social media. Anything that you can measure to show your value to the company is huge because numbers don’t lie.
5. Make It Known: You Want the Job
Lastly, make it known that you want the job. You won’t be considered for the job if you don’t seem like you want to work there. Request a meeting with your boss in the middle of your internship. Explain how much you believe in the company and what they do. Then, present measurable evidence of your work that you’ve done and express your interest in a position at the company post-graduation. If they say they’re not hiring or “We’ll see,” ask what steps you can take now to prepare yourself to come on full-time.
Jessica Ekstrom is the founder of Headbands of Hope, a college leadership speaker and a graduate of North Carolina State University.