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From Intern to Colleague: 3 Secrets for Landing a Full-Time Gig

You know that internships can be a great way to get some practical experience, make new contacts, and learn about what you want (and don’t want) in a job. But here’s a secret: Internships can turn into full-time jobs, too.

If you make a great impression, build strong relationships with your co-workers, and make yourself an integral part of the team, you’ll have a huge in, if and when a full-time position opens up.

So how do you become the kind of intern that gets hired? The secret is to focus on these three attributes.

1. Be Dependable

Assuming you’re still in school, your internship is only one of the many things you’re involved in—along with class, volunteering, school organizations, your social life, and everything else. But, while you’re in the office, you need to treat it like it’s your top priority.

If you blow a deadline because you’re studying or come in reeking of last night’s party, you’ll immediately give the impression that you’re not serious about the job. On the other hand, if you work hard to surpass expectations and show you’re reliable, you’ll earn the respect of your boss and co-workers, and you’ll prove that you have what it takes to be an employee.

How to do it:

  • Show up every day on time (or early!). If something comes up (and by something, we mean food poisoning or a funeral, not being tired), give your co-workers as much notice as possible and offer to come in for some extra time later on.
  • Pay close attention to important details and stick to deadlines. Be prepared for meetings, keep track of all of the projects you’re working on, and take notes about everything that’s happening in the office, whether or not it’s technically your role. You want to let your co-workers know they can trust you to keep track of what’s going on around you.
  • Do your work well. When someone gives you an assignment to work on, not only should you finish it completely and on time, you should hand in a product that’s even better than your supervisor expected. Add extra useful bits of information, make sure it’s formatted impeccably—you don’t want your boss to feel like she has to spell-check your work—and do a little extra work so that you’re prepare to answer any anticipated questions.
  • 2. Show Potential

    During your internship, you’re likely going to have moments where you’re asking yourself, How is this menial task going to show off my talents and help me get ahead? You’ll also have moments where you think, Oh no—I’ve never done this before, how am I supposed to actually do this?

    Here’s what you need to remember: Showing potential doesn’t mean lobbying to get only high-profile assignments and it also doesn’t mean being perfect. Do everything you’re asked to do well (trivial or not), ask questions when you need help, and through it all, show that you’re excited to keep learning and doing more. Over the course of your internship, you want your employer to see that you’re able to keep growing, learning, and taking on new things.

    How to do it:

    • Being eager to learn about the industry and company will show that you’re serious about a future at your office. Ask questions, offer to sit in on meetings with different departments, and show interest in different job paths within the department and company.
    • Continuously push yourself to take on new things. After completing an assignment, ask for the chance to complete the next step of the project—or maybe even see it through until the end. You’ll prove you’re capable of more than the basics.
    • As an intern, you don’t know it all, which means you’re bound to make a mistake at some point. That’s okay, as long as you learn from it. Admit what went wrong, then ask a co-worker how she would’ve handled the situation and for advice on how to move forward. When the same thing comes up in the future, prove that you listened and learned by handling it a better way.
    • 3. Become Indispensible

      Ultimately, the key to landing a full-time job is getting your co-workers to feel like they wouldn’t know what to do without you. This is important not only during your internship, but also for the rest of your career. If your employer can’t imagine life without you, you’ll be much more likely to succeed at your company—and much less likely to be zinged during a round of lay-offs. So, beyond being reliable and showing potential for more, show your employers that there’s no one else who could quite fill your role.

      How to do it:

      • Create a place for yourself in the office by taking on independent projects or focusing on a specific area of expertise that’s missing or underrepresented at your office. For example, if you’re great at social media in an office where your colleagues are inexperienced or just don’t have time to do it, offer to take on managing—and growing—the company’s social accounts.
      • Prove that you’re flexible and willing to help. If someone is up against a deadline, offer to take something off her plate, even if it has nothing to do with your official intern duties. If you’re able to manage your regular duties plus continuously help others, you’ll become a go-to in the office.
      • Offer up new ideas. It’s easy for an intern to remain in the background, but when it’s appropriate, don’t be afraid to share your thoughts in meetings. Soon enough, your co-workers will appreciate how much you have to contribute.
      • By working hard, becoming a dependable team player, and showing your potential to take on more, you’ll put yourself on the path to going from summer intern to full-time employee—and that’s a great place to be.

        Have advice to share or a good intern story? We’d love to hear it below.

        For more in this series, check out: Internship Week

        Photo courtesy of Steven Depolo.