Although a tech internship can open up the door to an amazing career, it’s also tricky to translate an internship at a particular company into a full-time position. Among interns, competition for any open position is nearly always fierce. Here are some ways to stand out from the pack.
“If several interns are competing for a limited number of positions, there are definitely some do’s and don’ts,” said Kristi Klemm, a startup business consultant. Interns whose duties overlap with the top priorities of a manager or company are most likely to land opportunities for continued work.
Pay attention during departmental meetings, which can offer valuable strategic clues. “Here, you’re able to listen in on what is happening within the department,” Klemm said, “including finding out the needs of different managers. Pay attention to places where needs become stress points because those are likely opportunities for you to help out.”
Once you’ve identified places where you can help, go to those hiring managers and offer your skills. During that conversation, stress that your participation would not only boost your own learning, but might also help take some of the stress off the manager. Even if the manager says “no,” your initiative will be noticed.
Mindy Silverman, a recruiting manager, recommends that interns ask for informational interviews with managers of departments. Ask thoughtful, well-researched questions about the work of the team and the business. This kind of persistence and intellectual curiosity can put you on a hiring manager’s radar.
Above and Beyond
When Joseph Nagle, director of marketing for EverCharge.net, parlayed his college internship at Nokia into a full-time position, he learned that the most important thing wasn’t doing great work—because the company already wanted that. “What helped me stand out was always going above and beyond my outlined scope of work,” he said. By taking on more responsibilities, Nagle found opportunities to connect with the kind of high-level team members that he wouldn’t have met otherwise.
On numerous occasions, Nagle made sure he was always the first to volunteer when people were looking for extra hands, and made the most of every one of those interactions. “I asked a lot of questions and acted on any advice that was given,” he added. The result was multiple job offers from different teams. In his first role as a full-time employee, he served as an operations specialist for Nokia’s Developer Experience team.
Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal (a company best described as the Uber of lawn care), has three or four interns that come through their annual internship program, and he’s only hired one of them full-time.
That employee, who is currently a front-end developer for GreenPal’s mobile website, started off as intern doing basic CSS and HTML bug fixes. “What set her apart from every other intern that we ever had,” he said, “was a weekly email that she sent me, where she reported the things that she had gotten done that week and she’d end with, ‘What’s the one thing that I could be doing next week that would help us achieve our objectives?’”
Although those emails didn’t alter the company’s game plan, the questions often addressed mission-critical items. That impressed Clayton. He suggests that any intern with a desire for a full-time position should commit to sending similar emails to his or her supervisor.
But Don’t Do This
Although ambition is a welcome attribute in an intern, there are some things one shouldn’t do, even if they seem like good ideas at the time.
For example, there will be times that a core employee group will be talking about information sensitive to the company, or the department. If you’re an intern, don’t attempt to insert yourself into those meetings. Don’t take it personally if you’re not asked to join in.
Offer to help on projects, but don’t be overbearing.
If you’re struggling with deadlines or find yourself faced with an issue that is simply overwhelming, don’t let yourself fall behind while trying to fix things. Ask for help, alert your manager as early as possible, and don’t forget to ask all the questions you need to assist in solving the problem.
“Part of this internship is learning to manage up as much as it is to learn the hard skills of your trade,” said Klemm. “If you can accomplish both, you’re likely to be considered a valuable resource to your manager, and much more likely to be offered a full-time position.”