Internships benefit professionals on both sides of the arrangement — for incoming professionals, they provide the experience needed to forge a career trajectory and develop a network. They benefit businesses by offering them the chance to mentor and shape budding professionals and to audition potential hires.
Turning an internship into a full-time gig is a great way to secure your first professional job. If this is your aim, pursue an internship that provides growth opportunities and then make yourself an attractive candidate. Here's how to do it.
Pursue what you want
Internships abound. When you search for an opportunity, aim for one that has the potential to become a long-term gig. You will notice that some posts include text such as, "opportunities to grow with our company" or "long-term potential for the right candidate." Pursue these, and avoid applying for any old random internship simply because you think it'll look good on a résumé. In the end, it'll be a waste of everyone's time if the company (or field) doesn't interest you.
When you get to the interview stage, don't hesitate to ask about long-term potential. Asking the questions that are important to you is key to developing your interview skill set. It doesn't make you seem pushy or inappropriate to ask about future opportunities. Don't forget: you are working, in some cases without pay, in exchange for this experience.
Be a stellar pro
Every new hire has to learn the nuts and bolts of her business, though there is also a bank of skills that can't be taught. These include the tenements of professionalism, like having a solid work ethic and being resourceful, reliable, and polite, in how your present yourself at work. These sensibilities are key to success in the workplace. If you have them, you will make a good impression.
Your employers can train you on the nuances of their business and their work culture, but they will hesitate to hire you if you don't possess the fundamentals of professionalism.
Do everything that you've been assigned to do, and then volunteer for everything else that you can. Lend a hand whenever you get the chance. Ask questions. Be eager to exercise your skills and to interact with various teams. Institutional knowledge is important to cultivate, and having that can bolster a candidate's value.
Learn from and collaborate with your colleagues. If you hope to make this your business, know everything you can about it.
What to avoid
There's a certain amount of subtlety that's important in the workplace that may be new to you, coming from an academic environment. Angling to get a promotion or secure a job tends to be a somewhat private ambition. So let your work speak for itself.
Even though you may be eager to know how you are doing and whether or not it's likely that you will be considered for a long-term position, try to get comfortable with that unknown. Hounding your supervisor about your chances may make you seem difficult to manage and will detract from all the other great work you're doing.
Also, even if you know you that you are fitting in well, never assume that a full-time job or a promotion is a "given." Surprising things can happen in the professional world; for example, just when you think you have the gig sealed up with a bow, a more qualified candidate from another department can come swooping in and nab the job you want. All you can do is set yourself up for success, and then work hard and exhibit solid professional skills. Employers tend to take note of this.
Good luck — you've got this!