Now that we’re heading into the last two to three weeks of summer internships, it’s time to figure out what your chances are to convert that internship into an offer for a full-time position. It is extremely important that you give this serious thought now, because even if it turns out that you don’t want to continue, or you sense that you may not be getting an offer, you still want to get the most out of your experience and your new contacts, and hopefully a couple of solid references.
Here are five ways to optimize the process, get the full-time offer, and/or exit gracefully.
1. Take stock and plan your exit (and re-entry!) strategy
Schedule a formal appointment with your internship supervisor to discuss your career plans. If you have not already expressed your interest in working for the organization full-time, this is the time to do so—and with enthusiasm! Let them know officially and formally that you loved it there, and would take it (or consider it seriously) if were you to get an offer.
Remember to confirm the process so that you know exactly how offers are made and when you are expected to accept. If there is no formal process, make sure someone is handling this and doing what needs to be done. Yes, you can negotiate a lot of this after you leave, but it’s so much easier to finalize the conversion to full-time while you are there.
If the department or team you worked for is not hiring full-time, find out whether there are opportunities in other departments or similar positions with other teams. Ask your supervisor to make these introductions, and go meet with these colleagues immediately.
Sometimes the most important thing you learn from your internship experience is that this is not what you want to do, or that the industry is simply not a good fit. Just because you don’t want to continue at this firm, doesn’t mean your new colleagues can’t help. If you have decided to change directions, thank them for their support, and find out if they have contacts in your new area of interest.
2. Network, network, network
Ah, networking—it’s such a dirty word! But what can I say? If you are in a traditional summer internship while at business school, law school, or other graduate program, this is just how it is.
So, we hope you made networking a priority. This is the final opportunity to step it up, especially if you were too busy/too shy during the past months. Remember: this is a golden chance to get to know the senior leadership, colleagues from all over the firm, as well as your fellow interns. They are all vital contacts for the future, and can serve as references, recommend you for a job, and alert you to positions at other companies. Also, hopefully you’ve been chatting to your colleagues to find out more about the company, and what they like and don't like about working there.
Step up the communications with your immediate supervisor and co-workers, and keep yourself in the loop, especially on hiring needs and what the situation is currently with interns returning for full-time work.
3. Participate, be engaged, and be very visible
This one’s related to No.2 above, and again—hopefully you have been doing this all summer. But this is the time to really be visible and “front and center” to the extent that you can without being seen as pushy or as an attention-seeker. You could take, for instance, the friendly and helpful approach. The important thing is to show a high level of enthusiasm and motivation.
Try to be included in meetings, company presentations, and professional workshops. Ask questions, be curious, and be alert. Remember that your internship is a job interview, and the interview is coming to an end. It’s go-time! You need to close the deal.
Am I putting too much pressure on you? Then think of your internship as a learning experience, with a significant self-exploration phase. This is the time to ask all the questions you need to ask and have all the conversations you want to have so that you have the clearest possible idea of what accepting a full-time job in this field/at this firm means. All of this will help you can make an educated decision about your career options.
4. Attend all social events and company activities
Most organizations host intern and other company events throughout the summer, and they want to see interns network and be part of the scene. Attend all of these events. And remember that you're socializing with your colleagues, not your friends.
Make one last major effort to meet and talk to people that you haven’t already met/spoken to. Go outside your immediate department, and think of key people in the organization you might like to have in your contact base. If you want to send any of these people an invitation to connect on LinkedIn in the future, your changes of that invite being accepted is significantly higher if you connect with them in person today!
In these last few weeks, broaden your event tracker. Go beyond just the formal intern programming, which might be wrapping up, and look to all company events, panel discussions that feature senior management, town hall meeting, and ad hoc mixers.
5. Make plans to keep in touch after the summer
Before the summer ends, get your colleagues' contact information so that you can keep in touch with them throughout the year- update them on what’s going on with you, and inquire about their work. If you made a great impression over the summer, and you keep in touch in an active and personalized manner, they will think of you for full-time—and/or just-in-time—hiring needs in the future. As with all other aspects of the job search process, it’s a mutual and often long-term courtship.