Just before I started an internship at my dream company, someone told me, “Treat your internship like one long, extended job interview,” which, if I’m being honest, sounded like the worst thing ever. But she was right.
Hiring you as an intern is a company’s best way to see if you’re a good fit, professionally and culturally. So, the best way to turn an internship into a job is to treat every day like an interview — and nail it. Here’s how to stand out and better your chances of getting hired:
Set overachievement as the standard.
Don’t just work hard. Always do more than is expected. If the deadline is tomorrow, get it done today. If you run out of things to do, ask for more. If you see that the coffee is out, make another pot. Not only will this prove you’re a valuable asset, it exposes you to more projects and departments, and shows others you’re willing to go above and beyond. You’ll earn a reputation for having ownership, and that’s something every company wants in a new hire.
Act like today is the only day you get.
Take advantage of every day you’re at the office. Don’t assume that since your internship is eight weeks long, four weeks from now you’ll get another opportunity to shadow, or attend a meeting you want to go to. Do it now. Communicate with your boss or mentor what you want out of this internship and where else you’d like to get involved. Make it clear that you’re not messing around and assume that no one is going to hold your hand.
View every awkward silence as a challenge.
You know those strained interactions in the kitchen waiting for coffee, where everyone’s making eye contact but no one says anything because everyone is either too shy or sleep deprived? Break. That. Silence. Just do it. I don’t care that you’re an intern and they’re creative directors. You like coffee. They like coffee. Introduce yourself. I guarantee you, 75% of the time your friendliness will be reciprocated, and if not — well, blame the Mondays.
Get good at names.
If you want people to remember your name, remember theirs. For those interning at bigger companies, this may be difficult, but that’s what LinkedIn is for. If someone introduces himself or herself to you, write their name down as soon as they’re gone. Or type it. Doesn’t matter — just remember.
Act like you already work there.
It’s all about faking it till you make it. If you act like you’re temporary, people will see you as temporary. If you act like you belong, even if you feel like you don’t, people will see you as part of the team.
Make office events mandatory.
“Yes, I’m going.” That’s your only answer for any office event. Be it a happy hour, lunch presentation, staff meeting, or off-site event – you’re going. Do your best to make it happen. These events may seem inconsequential but they’re invaluable chances to connect with your coworkers and prove you fit in the company culture.
Abandon the intern safety net.
You do not get credit for going to an event if you stay huddled in a group of fellow interns the whole time. Get out there and network! The conversation may be awkward, or less exciting than hanging with the intern crew, but when you break away, people notice. Yes, it’s scary, but so is unemployment.
Go to happy hour, but stop after two drinks.
Please, please, please do not be “that” intern that gets too drunk at an office event and can’t live it down. Drinking with coworkers can be fun, and I think a drink or two at happy hour can be a good way to connect. Just stop after that. A month down the road, when you’re trying to get a job, you want people to remember your work ethic, not your love-hate relationship with tequila.
And finally …
Now, even if you do everything right, the reality remains: if there are no openings, there’s no job. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Hired or not, if you’ve done it right, at the end of your internship you’ll have enough connections to jump start your job search and land a position you love and deserve.