If you are looking for an internship that will turn into a job offer, your planning should begin before you start applying. Some organizations have a policy of selecting talent from the interns who have worked there. They try you out, and you try them out. If you fit in well and did a good job, you have a reasonable change of being hired after your internship, or down the road when an appropriate position becomes vacant. On the other hand, some companies use interns as a source of cheap labor. You get experience, but they'd rather replace you with other interns than hire someone full-time on payroll.
Knowing the company's policy for hiring interns will save you from disappointment if you aspire to a full-time job with your internship host. Do your research prior to applying for an internship. Try to find out about the company's policy and track record for hiring former interns. Talk to others who have interned at your target companies or call the human resource department to inquire about the employer's policy as it related to hiring interns. This resource list, compiled by the Five O'clock Club, an international career coaching service, will also provide you with information about individual employers and their intern hire rates.
Of course, it is hard to know if you want to stay with a company until you have actually worked there. Big name companies are popular, but may not offer the opportunities and culture that are right for you. Smaller companies frequently provide interns with greater responsibility and a more diverse experience. They can be a good launching point to get into a more desirable organization or the perfect place to stay and grow your career.
What do you do if you discover the company you are interning with would be a great place to work? Here are some tips that can help you turn your internship into paid employment:
Get to know your coworkers: One of your first tasks as an intern should be to get to know everyone you will be involved with. Ask for and use their names. Find out what they do. Learn the professional language or jargon that is specific to their business and position. The administrative or support staff (human resources, accounting, clerical staff) are especially important to get to know because they know how to get things done and what resources are available. The maintenance staff and computer technicians will also be valuable resources in helping you to do your job. Getting to know your coworkers can pay dividends as they will be influential advocates should you decide you want to stay on with the company.
Make an Impact: Be willing to do as much as possible and soak up everything others are willing to teach. If you have completed your assignments, take the initiative to ask your supervisor for additional work or offer your services to others. Always do more than you are told. Your supervisor and coworkers will recognize your efforts, even if they don't always come out exactly right.
Volunteer Your Ideas: Don't be afraid to share the knowledge, skills, education and experiences that you have acquired in your journey through life. Be willing to allow your coworkers to learn from you. Interns often don't realize that their own experiences have a richness and value from which others can benefit.
Don't keep your desire a secret: Perhaps you're shy about asking to stay. If you've done well and they seem to like you, say something after you've been there a while. Don't mention it casually. Ask for a meeting with your boss, and say that you really enjoy working for the organization and would like to continue after graduation. "I know you can't promise me anything, but what do you think the chances are? Do you ever hire interns after they graduate?"
As they say in the U.S. Army, "Be all you can be." Make your internship be all it can be as well. Take advantage of the rich experiences you will acquire, new skills you will learn and valuable friendships you will make. It is the first big step into the world of work.
Terry Pile is a certified Five O'clock Club Coach and president of Career Advisors, a career development, transition and outplacement service working with individuals and small businesses. She can be reached at www.fiveoclockclub.com or www.careeradvisorsonline.com.