Turning Your Internship into a Full-Time Job

You’ve been interning all spring semester and graduation is coming up. You like your office, you like the team, and you’re eyeing a full-time position there after you get your cap and gown. But navigating a full-time job offer is very different game, and if you’re going to win, you have to know how to play.

1. Set Your Goals

Talk to your supervisor at your internship about what full-time role you would be best at. If they have a job description, see if you meet the requirements. If someone else is doing a similar job, ask if you can shadow them. Learn about the challenging aspects of the role and think about how you would approach those problems. Communicate your intent clearly to your supervisor (don’t assume they can read your mind!) and make a plan together for how to get there.

2. Act as If

Make no mistake, your internship is your job interview. By the time you interview, your office will have already observed the way you conduct yourself in the workplace.

Treat every day as if you’re making a lasting impression. Dress the part for the role you want. Arrive on time (or early!). Learn everyone’s name and something about them. Learn the company lingo, mission and values. If it’s appropriate to participate in meetings, speak up! Take part in company culture events. Act as though you’re already on the team and people will see you as such.

3. Don't Ask for Favors, Do Them

Asking for someone’s advice or knowledge is difficult when they’re already working late every night. Some of the best advice I ever received was “Don’t ask for favors in the office until you do them first.”  

If you ask for some additional responsibility, especially if it’s a job no one wants to do, you’ve likely made someone’s life easier which means they'll likely take time out for you. Ask them how they got to where they are (people love to share their story – heck, that’s why I’m writing this article!), and what advice they’d have for someone in your position. Let them know you’d like to apply for a full-time job and ask if you can count on their support.  

4. Ask for Feedback and Implement It

Taking feedback well requires practice (I know plenty of full-time employees who still struggle with it), but it’s vital to your growth and improvement. Ask your supervisor – or anyone else that works with you frequently – for feedback at least a few months before graduation. Even if you don’t totally agree with what’s said, receive the information gracefully. Don’t be defensive.  

Next, make sure to take steps to improve. Don’t call it out directly until your next review (tooting your own horn too loudly can backfire), but when you speak with your supervisor again, make sure to tell them about the ways you’ve implemented their feedback and the results you’ve achieved.  

5. Demonstrate Your Value

As an intern, you probably do a little bit of everything, but that could mean you’re spread so thin that it’s unclear what you’re contributing. Take a moment to quantify your contribution to the team. Saying “I answer all incoming phone calls” could mean ten phone calls a day, or it could be ninety, so be sure to clarify. If there’s a result to your work, even better! Consider these two sentences:

I answer emails from dissatisfied customers.

I answer 50 emails per week from customers who rated their experience with us 6 out of 10 or below and saved an average of 15 clients per week from closing their accounts.

While they both convey the same task, the second clearly states the volume and a tangible benefit for the company. As your elevator pitch evolves, start to include the impact you have on the team.

6. Don't Ignore Other Opportunities

While starting a full-time job at your current company would be an easy move, don’t skip looking around at other opportunities in your field. There are likely similar companies in your area and you might even like one of them better! Don’t worry, you aren’t betraying your current company by interviewing elsewhere; in fact, it might motivate them to make a decision faster if they see you’re in high demand!

7. If You Get the Job, Say Your Thank-Yous

You aced the interview and got the job! Congratulations! But before you start celebrating, a lot of people likely supported you throughout your internship. Take a moment to thank them, especially if they were part of the hiring committee. Even if you’re still on a college student’s budget, a handwritten note costs nothing, but makes a lasting impression. These are the people who need to see you as a peer and no longer an intern, so make sure they know you’re grateful for what they’ve done for you.

8. If You Don't Get the Job, Ask for Referrals/References

Confession time. When I graduated college, I interviewed for a full-time role at my internship...and didn’t get it. (Looking back now, it was the wrong choice, and I probably would have hated it.) However, the staff at my internship gave me some great referrals to a company they worked with frequently, and THAT led me to landing my first full-time job. Your company may think you’ve done a fantastic job, but there may not be budget, or a business need to hire you. Sometimes hiring is political and not every department is allowed to bring new people on. Sometimes a business may be on a hiring freeze if they’re not growing enough. And sometimes, there’s just a better opportunity out there for you.

If your internship isn’t going to yield a full-time job, ask your supervisor or someone who has appraised your work to be a reference for you or if they know of anyone else that's hiring. They’ll certainly have the pulse on your industry and can direct you to where to start your job hunt.  

Whether you get the job or not, one of the biggest hurdles any student faces when joining the workforce is proving they’re ready for a full-time job. No matter the result from your internship, you’ve already taken the first step to proving you’re ready. Pat yourself on the back for the effort, and get out there – wherever it may be, your first job awaits!

Written by: Kevin Baker

Posted on

October 7, 2019


Career Trajectory