College kids – grab that internship by the horns and wrestle it down to help you on your way to becoming a power house. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by regardless if it’s paid or unpaid internship for credit.
Here are some tips to best leverage your internship into a full-time position.
- Take the driver’s seat. Not getting the assignments or learning opportunities you were hoping for? Ask for more responsibility. If your manager can’t think of anything (they’re probably too busy to put thought into creating non-productive learning projects for you), then come up with some suggested projects yourself and present them to them. For example, if you’re a PR intern perhaps come up with a couple pitches to help promote the organization itself or write a blog post. If you’re a graphic design intern, design a tool for the business or suggest a graphic for a client, showing you know how to create value for clients. You don’t work at McDonald’s for a reason, so don’t just take orders – show you’re proactive and a go-getter.
- Volunteer for the unglamorous assignments as well as the exciting ones. Volunteer to organize the office. Volunteer to help develop an intern guide. It shows you are a team player.
- Volunteer outside of work too. We met with Ohio State’s PRSSA chapter and the majority of their questions were about how to adapt to living on your own and in a new city. Volunteering for a nonprofit or cause you’re passionate about connects you to people of similar interests. It also opens up opportunities for mentorship for those who are older and/or can make connections for later in your career. Some of my best friends are ones I used to volunteer with at the ballet, so it’s a way to connect socially with people outside of work which is particularly important if you work for a small firm.
- Don’t make your boss guess where you are. Show up on time and check out before you leave every day to see if they need anything. Use that as an opportunity to connect. No one is responsible for tracking you down so communicate your plans and intent, especially if you will be out of the office or won’t return.
- Be a pest. You might have worked on something and not known how/where it ended up. Or you might have done it incorrectly and a more senior associate fixed it or redirected it. But make sure to be a pest to understand why it was wrong or how to do it directly. Our current design intern impressed us during the interview because she stated that she wants to know what she’s doing wrong not just right. Ask for feedback constantly.
I remember when I attempted to do a regression analysis when I was an intern and asked my boss if it looked good and she said no, but didn’t show me how to do it correctly, it didn’t do me any good for the next time. So be a pest and ask questions! Also ask why the team makes certain strategy decisions to better inform your future actions. Understanding all the business lines / services even if it’s not your department will make you more of a utility player. Act like a toddler and just keep asking questions.
- Own it. If a task is almost done and your typical time to leave is here, why not just finish it? Then of course communicate that it’s done! The most frequent complaint everyone has about interns is they have to guess or look in the files to see if something is done because the intern doesn’t let them know a task is complete. Tell them you’re done, get credit and own it!
- Show how you respect how time-crunched everyone is and show your ability to hustle which will show how valuable you can be as an employee long term, especially if you work in a billable hours environment. Ask for deadlines or how long something “should” take. Don’t get discouraged if you can’t do something as quickly/well as a veteran but it sets a good goal.