This time last year, I was sitting in the same cubicle and at the same company as I am today, but as a college intern. Turning that summer position into a full-time job wasn’t easy, though. Here are some tips that may help get you from intern to in-demand employee:
Don’t act like you run the place.
“Hi Mr. (or Ms.) CMO, my extensive experience managing my club’s Facebook page makes me qualified to drive the global social media strategy.” Not cool. While you don’t want to sit silently in your cube all day, remember that it’s a balancing act between being confident and remaining humble enough that you don’t fall into the “entitled millennial” stereotype already pinned to our generation.
Leave the party at home.
It’s easy to spot the party intern: dressed down, bags under the eyes, and the lingering smell of beer. Better to gain the respect of your co-workers before letting them see your weekend self. It makes you look unprofessional; furthermore, nothing kills productivity like a splitting headache and the urge to take a nap under your desk.
Don’t act like a fool on social media.
We’ve all been told to clean up our Facebook pages and Instagram photos. Go above and beyond. Your photos and comments may be set as private, but companies can still see posts that your friends tag you in (e.g., the beer pong tournament). If you’re serious about this internship as full-time work, ask others to avoid tagging you in anything remotely unprofessional.
Use social media to your advantage.
Throughout your internship, connect with co-workers, managers, and others you’ve met via LinkedIn. This is a good way to stay up on the latest company news. And don’t be shy about commenting on work-related posts people share. It shows you’re interested in the company and serious about your career. You’ll also pop up on their news feed—and into their subconscious.
Be the Jack Bauer of interns.
Go above and beyond on every task and project you’re given, even if it seems mundane. People will recognize you for the work you’ve contributed and continue to talk positively about you once your internship is complete—instead of having only lingering memories of the selfies you posted from your cube.
Go old school to leave a lasting impression.
Make the rounds, shake hands, and look people in the eye to say goodbye and thank them for the experience. Then go snail mail. At the end of my internship, I hand-wrote thank-you notes to all of my co-workers to let them know that I appreciated the time they spent with me and that the experiences and knowledge they shared will help my career. They remembered the gesture—and many even kept the notes.
Be direct about wanting a job.
At the end of the internship, ask about career opportunities. It’s important to let your managers know you’re interested in more than just an internship. Otherwise, they’ll just look for the next intern to fill the shoe you left in the door.
Keep in touch, and make friends with HR.
It’s important to check in with past managers, but it’s just as necessary to establish a relationship with the human resources department and recruiters. Dazzle them with your winning personality and can-do attitude. After five months of e-mails and phone calls with my recruiter, she was using smiley faces in her e-mails to me.
After completing my internship last August, I interviewed for three different positions and was rejected for all of them. But I knew I wanted to work at this company because the culture and type of work fit my career goals. By the spring, I interviewed for a fourth role and was finally hired. The job market is competitive, but there’s a reason they hired you as an intern in the first place. Be persistent and keep trying, because a company is much more likely to take a known quantity rather than another unknown candidate.
Be honest with yourself about the corporate culture.
Is this a company you can really see yourself working at for a few years? Can you see yourself working with the co-workers and manager every day? Is it a long-term career that you’re interested in? Most important, will you gain the experience you desire? If not, let one of your fellow recent grads have a shot.