Getting a job is stressful for everyone, unless one of your parents is president of the
When I graduated college in 2009, it was the worst economic time of my generation. Somehow, I still managed to find a job – by turning an internship into full-time employment, with a 401(k) and everything!
For those of you currently at internships or starting them soon, here are a few tips on how to turn that gig into one that lasts:
Prove You Can Do the Job
Many companies use internships to find full-time hires. This means you should be doing your best to prove they’re dumb-dumbs if they don’t offer you a job.
Sure, some internships sadly require you to get coffee for everyone and do other less-than-skilled work. If that’s the case, and the company is not giving you any actual responsibilities, use your free time outside of the internship to do projects similar to your company’s work. Then, show these projects to your bosses and ask for their critique.
For example, let’s say you’re working at an advertising firm, but you’re never asked to write any ad copy. Find out what campaigns the company is working on and spend a few nights brainstorming ideas. When your work is polished and ready, ask your boss if they’d be willing to look over what you’ve done and offer advice on how to make it better. Maybe you’ll get lucky and write the perfect new slogan for a large company the firm has been pursuing! I bet it involves emojis. (Confession: I am not in advertising.)
Here’s a crazy fact: The employees at these companies are way more talented than you are. I know, I know – that’s hard to believe. But it’s true! This means you have a lot to learn from everyone around you.
Whenever someone does awesome work or is assigned a project you think is interesting, ask them if you could buy them lunch or coffee and pick their brain. Because humans are hardwired to love talking about themselves, most people will say yes. Ask these people about their careers. Explore how they got where they are and any advice they may have for the work you’re doing or how to better yourself. You may even discover they have a project they could use your help on – an opportunity you never would have gotten if you hadn’t asked to meet with them.
These mentors can also be valuable contacts when you’re looking for jobs later in your career. Also, because you’re an intern, no self-respecting full-timer will actually allow you to pay for their food with your meager intern pennies. Unless they’re a monster, they’ll totally pay for your meal, thus requiring you by law to someday do the same for a future intern.
Gain More Skills for Future Work
If you’re doing a great job and your bosses are telling you as much (unless they suck), ask them if they have any projects outside what you regularly work on. Doing tasks that you’re initially bad at is how you do this amazing trick we in the real world called “learning.” If you do enough of this “learning,” you’ll earn a whole new array of skills by the end of the internship, skills you can put down on future cover letters and resumes to prove you’re super awesome.
Get a Job
Because I assume you’ll do the best job possible, halfway through your internship, you should start applying for work elsewhere. Let your bosses know you plan on leaving by the end of the internship; ask if they know of folks hiring elsewhere.
This does a few things: It tells your internship you plan on leaving unless they come up with a reason for you to stay (a.k.a., gainful employment). It also starts the process of finding a job, which usually takes a few months. By the time your internship ends (unless your bosses smarten up and lock you down), you’ll be able to use your connections – your boss, your mentors, anyone from previous internships – to get a gig. But if you can prove you’re worth keeping around, that’s just what the company will do.
Andy Boyle is a writer, comedian, web developer, and author of Adulthood for Beginners: All the Life Secrets Nobody Bothered to Tell You. Find him on Twitter: @andymboyle.