When I was a senior in college, I worked as an editorial intern for The Muse. By the time I graduated eight months later, I had a full-time job lined up here as an associate editor, which led me to where I am now as an editor.
I consider this outcome a combination of luck and hard work. Luck because, as is the case with a lot of job searches, I happened to be in the right place at the right time—The Muse was hiring at the exact time I was applying to full-time jobs, and I fit the mold of what they were looking for. And hard work because, quite frankly, they wouldn’t have even considered me as a viable candidate had I not invested a lot of time, energy, and enthusiasm into my role as an intern.
I’m incredibly grateful my employer took a chance on me, and I’m sure a lot of soon-to-be graduates are also pondering how they can transition their summer or part-time internships into bigger full-time opportunities. Here’s what you need to do to make your case.
Make Sure You’ve Made the Most of Your Internship
Let’s be honest: If you’re not all that attractive and useful as a short-term employee, your employer’s not going to be jumping out of their seat to hire you full time. Muse career coach Jillian Lucas emphasizes that for those eight to 12 (or more) weeks you’re an intern, you should “treat your internship as though it’s a lengthy interview or audition. In other words, not only should you put your best foot forward and demonstrate very strong work ethic, [but] also form positive relationships with everyone.”
This is all to say that before you even think about asking for a full-time job, you have to consider whether you’ve truly put in your time. If you’re close to the end of your internship, reflect on the last few weeks or months. Have you accomplished a lot or made an observable impact? Have you gone above and beyond your boss’ or co-workers’ expectations? Have you gotten a lot of great feedback? Does your immediate team—and do other people within the company—like and respect you?
Also, think about the minutiae. Did you show up on time most days (if not every day)? Did you meet deadlines? Did you take constructive criticism and actively apply it? Are you better at things you struggled with when you started your internship? All these things matter when a hiring manager goes to make their decision about hiring an intern for a full-time role.
If you’re still in the throes of your internship with weeks to go before it’s over, start working now to ensure that these things will all be true when you leave. You’ve got time because in general, you shouldn’t be making your full-time job ask until the last few days of your internship anyway. Ask thoughtful questions, get to know your team and learn about their work, help out whenever and wherever you’re needed, pick up any necessary skills, seek out and take feedback. These articles are great reads for making the most of your internship and departing on a positive note:
- How to Master Your Summer Internship
- The 4 Intern Traits Everyone Should Embrace (No Matter How High Up You Get)
“Ideally, you’re so impressive you are being encouraged from within to apply for a full-time role” without you even having to ask, Lucas explains. And having a team of people backing you up and putting in a good word for you doesn’t hurt, either.
Compile Your Goals and Accomplishments
Before you have “the big chat,” you’ll want to prepare a few talking points.
First, you’ll want to list out your achievements. What projects, big or small, did you complete over the course of your internship? What were the results or impact of those assignments? What have you learned, picked up, or improved upon, and how have those things made you a stronger employee? These notes will be helpful both in showing gratitude to your manager for all the experience they’ve given you (more on that below) and outlining exactly how much you’ve grown and developed and how that makes you a valuable asset.
Next, outline some rough career goals for yourself. You won’t want to just go to your supervisor and say, “I want a job here”—that’s not a powerful goal nor is it a persuasive talking point. Rather, think back on your experience and the responsibilities you enjoyed taking on or what you observed others doing that you think you’d like to try. What kinds of things would you look forward to doing as a full-time employee? What would you want to accomplish, and why? What kind of mission or product do you want to be a part of? Answering these questions allows you to go in and say, “Here’s why my passions align with this company and how I could bring value to your organization.”
Get Some One-on-One Time With Your Manager to Thank Them
“As your internship is winding down, schedule a conversation with your boss or be prepared to have a discussion about your future with the company during your normally scheduled check-in,” says Lucas. A good supervisor is going to ask about your career goals and how this internship fits into that picture. A not-as-good (or just really busy) supervisor may not be as proactive, meaning you’ll have to make the request to chat yourself.
This conversation might go a few different directions. They may ask if you’re interested in working for them for the long term, which sets you up to state your case. Most likely, they’ll want to talk more generally about your experience and future ambitions.
Regardless, you always want to start out by thanking your boss for their guidance and support, and for taking a chance on you. As Lucas notes, “Showing gratitude always leaves a favorable impression.”
Then, she says, take everything you compiled about your achievements and “reiterate the positive experience you had with the organization and highlight the relevant areas of professional growth.” You don’t have to go into intense detail—instead, highlight two to three projects you specifically loved working on, why you loved working on them, and what you gained from that experience.
By the way, when reflecting on your experience at the company, don’t focus on trivial things like the great free snacks or fun happy hours you attended. If company culture mattered a lot to you, focus instead on the meaningful relationships you built and what you gained from them—not the office perks.
Then Outline Your Request
After showing gratitude, it’s important to transition the conversation and “make your career goals known to your supervisor,” says Lucas. Your notes above should help with this. And don’t just talk about what you want to do. Figure out how your goals line up with what the company is looking to do or hiring for (if they happen to have a job open that you’d be great for).
In this discussion, you’ll also want to “remind your supervisor not only of skill fit, but also the values fit and your commitment to the mission of the company. After all, you can speak from first-hand experience,” Lucas explains. Emphasize what you bring to the table as someone who spent the last few weeks immersed in the organization’s culture and development and as a result offers a uniquely valuable perspective, skill set, and drive.
“Your approach matters,” Lucas adds. “Asking for a job is often too big a request. Instead, convey genuine interest in joining the company and inquire about potential opportunities.”
What This Sounds Like
OK, so what do you actually say? Try this script out:
“To start off, I can’t thank you enough for your guidance and support during my time here at [Company]. I especially loved [quality of the company you liked] and [projects you particularly liked working on]. During my time here, I developed [skill you developed] and especially honed my [other skill you developed or improved upon]. I feel fortunate to have been part of such an incredible, cohesive team and would love to continue contributing to the mission of [Company or team]: [their mission].
As you know, I’m graduating [when you’re available for hire] and beginning my search for full-time [industry] roles. I would greatly appreciate your guidance in pursuing a full-time opportunity here. I’m particularly interested in [role they’re hiring for] and would love your thoughts on how I could possibly be considered for the job/I know you’re not currently hiring for your team, but I’d love to be considered if something opens up down the road.”
What This Looks Like Over Email
Maybe you’re a remote intern, or the clock’s ticking and you can’t seem to get face time with your boss. If talking in person isn’t an option, use this email template (hint: It’s similar to the email I sent when I asked to work at The Muse full time!):
Hi [Supervisor’s Name],
I wanted to reach out to talk about my future direction with [Company]. I’ve been absolutely thrilled to work with such talented people over the last [time you’ve spent so far at the company]. I’ve learned more about [industry] than I ever thought I would, and I’m grateful for all the knowledge, support, and guidance the team has provided me. It’s been particularly amazing to work on [projects you worked on or are super proud of] and hone my skills in [skills you developed or improved upon], and to be a part of building [Company]’s mission to [their mission]. So thank you!
As I prepare for the end of this internship, I’m in the process of searching for a role in [industry]. I would be very interested in applying for any full-time positions starting [when you’re available for hire] at [Company], and I’m wondering if you might be hiring or consider me for a position on [team]?
Please let me know what you think or if you might like to chat in person. I look forward to continuing to work with you all for [time you have left in your internship].
Thanks again for making this such a wonderful internship experience!
If They Say No, Be Gracious and Keep in Touch
Even if you do everything right—you’re a great intern, you’re polite and appreciative in your request, you show your value, you express genuine enthusiasm for joining the team—there are tons of reasons why an employer would say no to hiring you, or rather “no for now.” They could have zero budget to hire someone. They could be looking for someone with more experience or a different background. They could want to hire you, but someone higher up isn’t as thrilled about it.
Basically, understand going in that there’s a good chance you won’t get a job offer. More likely, they’ll say that they’re interested but it’s not an option at the moment or they don’t have enough leeway to make it happen—and you’re better off applying elsewhere.
Remember this, though: This isn’t the end of the road! Sure, you may not get to work for your dream company right away. But if you play your cards right, somewhere down the line they could come back into your life with an opportunity even better than this one.
What does playing your cards right look like? Well, as Lucas notes, on your last day you’ll want to send an official thank you note (and maybe a small gift) to your supervisor, team, and other colleagues you interacted with to leave them with the best impression of you. You’ll also want to stay in touch with some of your team over the course of your job search and start of your career. Who knows, maybe they can connect you with someone they know at another dream company of yours.
Shoot them a note when you land a job to thank them again for their part in your career growth, and suggest grabbing coffee once you’re settled in. If you’re on especially good terms, follow them on LinkedIn or other social media platforms and comment or like their posts when appropriate (just not all the time, that’s annoying and fake). In other words, keep the relationship super warm.
“Fostering those relationships may very well lead to your next opportunity,” says Lucas. This strategy actually worked for her in the early days of her career. “I moved to a different state upon completion of a graduate internship. I stayed in touch with my supervisor and several team members via email and social media. A couple years later, I was moving back to DC for my husband’s job, [and] they had an opening, reached out encouraging me to apply, and hired me. Keeping up those relationships certainly paid off!”
Photo of person on laptop courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.
As Editor for The Muse, Alyse is proud to prove that yes, English majors can change the world. Her work has been featured in Fast Company, Forbes, Inc., Motto, CNBC's Make It, USA Today College, Lifehacker, Mashable, and more. She calls many places home, including Illinois where she grew up and the small town of Hamilton where she attended Colgate University, but she was born to be a New Yorker. In addition to being an avid writer, Alyse loves to dance, both professionally and while waiting for the subway.More from this Author