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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

How to Turn Your Start-up Internship Into a Job

If you’ve ever thought about working for a start-up someday, you probably already know that interning is a great way to get experience. Think you may want to work in fashion, edtech, or health? Intern at a relevant company to see what it’s really like day-to-day. (It’s hard to separate fact from fiction in movies like The Devil Wears Prada or The Social Network.)

But while it’s always good to view your internship in terms of gaining experience and building out your resume, an internship you have after your junior year or graduation may have a side benefit—getting you a full-time job.

Of course, moving from intern to full-time at a start-up isn’t necessarily a straightforward process. For one, there’s no guarantee that a full-time position will be open when you graduate or finish up a three-month commitment. Many start-ups only have one marketing person, one product person, one community person, and so on, so if the position you’re after is already filled, you may be out of luck. What’s more, it can take some maneuvering to position yourself such that you’re top-of-mind when a job does open up.

But the good news is, it’s not only possible to go from intern to full-time, it happens all the time. Here are three things to keep in mind.

Stay on During the School Year

If you're looking for a job after graduation, you're in a better position if you can be in the office, contributing up until to the day you want a full-time role, than you are if you haven't been in the office for 6-8 months. Even if it's just for 5 or 10 hours a week, showing that you’re committed to the team (not to mention able to balance school and work) is a great sign.

Our head of marketing at InstaEDU got her first job after college (at a museum) this way. When her full-time summer marketing internship was over, she asked if she could keep working throughout the school year for a few hours a week, running the e-newsletter and building out content for the website. And over time, she took on enough responsibility and had enough institutional knowledge that it was important to the organization that she stay on after graduation. Similarly, we just extended a full-time offer to an intern from last summer who was able to continue working throughout the school year.

If your campus isn’t located in the same area as your internship, you’ve still got options. One of the benefits of interning for a start-up is that much of what you’ll be working on can probably be completed remotely. Offer to stay on as a virtual intern, writing blog posts, working as a campus ambassador, or reaching out to potential customers via email.

Balance Being an Intern With Taking on More Responsibility

The best interns are the ones who know where they can contribute, what they want to learn more about, and when to ask for more responsibility. In other words, the ones who are really excited about opportunities at the company. (And there's nothing more frustrating than looking over at an intern's computer and seeing that he or she’s spending all day on Facebook—when the last project assigned is sitting untouched.)

At start-ups, there is always more to do. So, if there’s an area of the business you want to learn more about, a skill you want to gain, or a project you have a great idea for, don’t be afraid to jump in and contribute. Even suggesting a new project or task that's a little outside of your comfort zone shows that you have a desire to grow in your role and that you’re not afraid to wear a bunch of different hats. Be careful not to take on more than you can handle, but know that taking charge and diving into new areas of the company—especially those you can shine in—is a great way to show how you would contribute as a full-time employee.

Be Honest About What Your Goals Are

At InstaEDU, we're a small company, so we may only have one or two open positions at any given time. That said, if an intern is honest about wanting his or her position to become a full-time job, that's something we can keep in mind throughout the internship. In the event that a position does open up, I'll be more likely to reach out to my former intern if I know he or she is interested.

Disclaimer: Don’t bring this up in your internship interview—wait until you’ve landed the job (and are killing it). It’s great to have ambition, but during the interview your goal should be to get the internship—not the job that may or may not come after.

Photo of intern courtesy of Shutterstock.