Technically speaking, I’m not an employment expert—I can’t expertly tell you the best ways to find an internship, nail an interview, or write a cover letter. However, I do have a lot of experience getting employed. In fact, in 2014–2015, I held 10 different internships, freelance gigs, and on-campus or seasonal jobs. Yes, that’s a lot.
One job in particular stands out because I’d already had it for three years at that point, and I got it in an unusual way. Long story short, I ended up getting a real job based on an internship—before senior year of high school even started. And the work stayed steady on a seasonal pace, so I was able to keep the job throughout college.
Sound too good to be true? Well, it doesn’t happen for everyone. But here’s some advice on how to turn a short-term role into a long-term position.
Learn as much as possible
Everything you do as an intern is learning. Whether it’s figuring out how to use a program like MailChimp or InDesign or learning how to fix the copier when it gets a paper jam, you’re learning important, practical things.
If you like the company where you’re interning and it’s somewhere you’d like to work beyond your internship, ask your coworkers questions about the job. See if you can help them in any way so you learn how to do that job. Figure out how things work on a daily basis so you have that experience. If you’re already doing the job you want—and doing it well—it’s easier to convince someone to pay you to do it.
Pay attention to the things that will help you
Eavesdropping is rude; you shouldn’t do it because it’s not your business what other people say. Except everybody eavesdrops…even interns—especially interns. So use it to your advantage.
People would talk about work-related things around me sometimes, so I’d learn about the company by proxy—things like when they hire, specific things management didn’t want to hear in interviews, and random advice staff would share about how to do the job better—basically how to get the job and do well in the position. Don’t be ashamed to listen in when you hear these helpful hints.
Help out when you can
Often in offices, there are small tasks or long-term projects that are menial but important (such as updating employee contact lists or organizing files) that get pushed off eternally by others. By doing these side jobs, you’ll learn a company’s systems of organization, which can sometimes be intricate, and that gives you a leg up. Not to mention it shows initiative and eases responsibilities for those who didn’t have time to get to it.
I offered to do some work during the school year, and while they only called me in a couple times, it helped and was worth it. The person who hired me even said a big reason I got the job was reliability based on those interactions.
Interact with everyone
Don’t just talk to the other interns—you’ll get a lot more out of your internship if you interact with the people who work at the company full-time. This gives you a feel for the kind of people they hire and lets you know if you fit that type.
It’s also genuinely enjoyable having conversations with adults when you’re treated as an equal. Are you at completely different stages in your lives? Absolutely. Will you hang out after work? Probably not. But do you all have similar work experiences? Yes. Are you all familiar with Star Wars? Hopefully, or this is awkward. Plus, even if you don’t end up in this position full-time, the connections you make are valuable to your network for other jobs and your future.
Ask for a chance at the position
The last month of the program, I went to the hiring manager and said, “I can’t intern again next summer, but I love working here. I’m familiar with this position, and you’re hiring. Could I please interview?” Do not expect your supervisor to just offer you a position based on your performance. That might happen, but it’s not common. You may still need to fill out a regular application too.
But what sets you apart from others vying for the position is the information you collected during your internship. Instead of trying to convince the hiring manager why you would be a good fit, explain how you’re already an asset. Talk about the way you fit in with your coworkers, how you already understand the job, and the value you feel you’ve provided thus far.
Use your experiences to your advantage. Remember, not every internship will result in a job, but these are the easiest ways to put yourself in a good spot for a better chance at making it happen.
For more advice on finding great experiences for your career goals, check out our Internships and Careers section.