These days internships might be an essential stepping stone to your first job offer, but a stint (or several) as an intern is no guarantee of a paid job after graduation. In fact, new research from consultancy Millennial Branding and online career network AfterCollege found that while 79% of students have had at least one internship, a similarly large percentage (76% to be precise) of these placements didn’t result in a job offer.
So how do you make sure your internship is among the minority that actually yields a job upon completion? Experts have plenty of advice to offer beyond the basics of showing up on time, dressing appropriately and always being upbeat.
The first step to converting your internship into a full-time gig is choosing the right one. Not all internships are created equal. If possible, find a paid position. Research by the National Association for College and Employers shows that paid internships turn into jobs nearly twice as often unpaid ones.
Why? You’re more likely to be asked to do substantive work at a paid internship. The same study found paid interns spend 42% of their time on professional tasks. Unpaid interns spend just 30% of their time on substantive work.
Have Something to Show for Your Time… and Show It!
Not only should you only choose an internship where you’ll be given real work, but you should also communicate with your supervisor to make sure you have clear aims for your time with the company. “Set specific expectations for the internship. Often in the excitement of obtaining the internship, you forget to let the employer know what you hope to gain from the experience. Schedule a formal appointment with your supervisor on the first day of work to establish goals for your projects,” suggests the USC Career Center.
And keep track of how you’re doing at reaching those goals. Either note down accomplishments to use in both your performance review and on your resume, or employ another strategy Jessica Givens, author of Get Your Summer Strategy On!, suggested to CBS MoneyWatch: “At the end of each day, email your supervisor a summary of what you did that day and a plan of action for tomorrow.”
It’s All About Who You Know
At every rung of the career ladder relationships are important, and that’s equally true of your first steps into the world of work. “Throughout the summer, I set up coffee appointments with people all over the company to learn more about what they did to see if it would interest me and to create a network of connections,” Joel Leeman, who managed to turn an internship at Thompson Reuters into a paid post, explained in an email. LinkedIn can be a great resource for reaching out to form these relationships. Also, don’t neglect to collect contact info for those you meet and keep in touch.
Curious Beats a Know-It-All
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that proving your competence means not asking questions. Thoughtful queries will make a far better impression than acting like you have it all figured out already. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s a great way to show your level of engagement and connect the dots,” Holly Stroupe Vestal, who leveraged her internship into a full-time job at Bank of America, told Forbes.
Just make sure you think things through and gather information before you ask. “It’s important that you always say ‘I’ll figure it out,’” writes Leeman. “Not that I figured everything out on my own. I relied heavily on our office coordinator and employees that were just a couple years older than me. If I didn’t know how to do something and couldn’t figure it out, I knew the right people to go to for advice.”
Not only should you ask questions generally, you should also definitely ask one specific question in particular – is there more work available for you with the company. “Perhaps the most obvious-yet-often-forgotten tip is to ask! Once you can see the end of your internship approaching, speak with your boss about your future academic and career goals,” urges Melisa Foster, in a Levo League post on how she converted her internship into a job offer.