How to Turn Your Internship into a Job Offer

December 04, 2018
By Robelen Bajar

Most students embrace internships as an opportunity to both show what they can do and learn what they still need to know. Across a period of weeks or months, they gain invaluable real-world experience, which will hopefully help shape them to a point that a graduate job offer or an entry-level role arrives.

This doesn’t come without impressing the powers that be. Most people know the basic tenets of doing just that – being punctual, being polite, being eager and showing enthusiasm. But there’s much more you can do to help position or brand yourself as someone who would be a great fit when the time is right. Here are seven ideas to consider. 

1. Reflect on what you've learned

The primary purpose of an internship is for you to learn, grow from the experience, put theory into practice and explore a career that interests you. If you think, you're ready for the next move, the first step is to reflect on what you've learned - not only to clarify what you've done, but what you'll now be able to do in the future.

You might find it helpful to sit down and write a list of all the different things you did during your internship, and work out which tasks you enjoyed and didn't enjoy. That way you can start to narrow down the things you're interested in. As a result, you'll also have a clear idea in your head of the skills you've refined during your internship - something that will prove invaluable when it comes time to be interviewed for a new role, and you need to quickly recall valuable experiences. 

2. Find the right fit

When you were trying to decide what to do after high school, you most likely considered a range of study areas and matched them against your interests, talents and personality, to choose the one that seemed the best fit. It makes sense to do the same when it comes to applying for an internship or any role for that matter.

Rather than blanket applying to everything under the sun, take the time to do some research and find out what is not only interesting, but suitable for you. And wouldn't you know it, Paddl even helps by showing you opportunities most relevant to your course.

It's also important to connect with previous interns and sound out people you know in the industry to get an idea of which companies you might work best with. Focusing on a smaller and highly targeted list of employers raises your chances of finding opportunities where your unique skill set, background or qualification is viewed more highly and earn the kind of attention that is likely to lead to a job offer.

3. Spread yourself thin

Under ordinary circumstances, this would mean taking on too much at once – which is definitely not recommended – but with internships, it can be an entirely different principle. Here, it’s about spreading yourself across as much of the business as you can, without impacting on your intern work. This might mean asking for tours of different departments with a chat with each department head, volunteering to help out with various departments that might be under the pump, or chatting with HR to see where else you could lend a hand. That’s not to say you should take on too much for too many people, but the more contacts who know you, and the wider the network you can curate, the greater the chances your name will come up the next time the company is hiring, or someone in the industry is looking for recommendations on promising young graduates.

4. Stay in touch

An internship might only last for three months, but the relationships you establish there should not. After all, you never know where they might go. So even if your time with the company doesn’t end with a junior role or a graduate job offer, leave on good terms and ask if you can stay in contact. But – and here’s the crucial point - don’t just limit that contact to the odd email asking if any opportunities are on the horizon. Instead, make a point of also being useful. For example, if a new but little known technology was the talk of the office, track down a couple of really informative articles and send them to your former intern chief or supervisor. It’s so much better than always just being in touch because you want something.  It also reinforces for them that your interest in the industry didn’t walk out the door as you did: you’re still thirsting for knowledge and searching it out. And those are two traits that a potential employer will always remember. Handwritten thank you notes can also be a great way to leave a great impression. In a world where dashing off emails takes five seconds, it shows you take the time and care to do important things properly.

5. Work like you're staying for good (or going for a promotion)

It can be easy to fall into the mindset that slacking off a bit in your downtime is ok because you're just an intern. But in the spirit of dressing for the job you want, it’s also a good idea to work for the job you want – behaving exactly as you would if you had a full-time gig. This might mean steering clear of long chat sessions in the kitchen, putting Facebook aside for a day and avoiding taking an excessively long lunch break. It’s not only about being diligent, it’s about being seen to be diligent. And when you are, the people who are doing the hiring can, and will, notice.

6. Own up to your mistakes

There’s not a single employee anywhere who hasn’t made a mistake. Sometimes they’re small and easily remedied. Other times they cost the company big time. While the circumstances can vary, one thing that always makes things worse is when those responsible don’t own up to it. If you can show that you're prepared to own up to your mistakes and offer suggestions to resolve them, you'll show that you not only have the integrity and maturity to deal with failure, but the intelligence to know that you have to be part of the solution. This is a quality many employers look for in their team.

7. Ask for, and accept, feedback

Interns sometimes assume that feedback is either positive (a job offer) or negative (a goodbye). But things are rarely black and white. So, wherever possible - even at the end of your internship - request for some honest feedback from your supervisor. You’ll most likely find this an extremely constructive session where they give you some pointers on what to work on for the future. The key thing though, is not to get defensive. Instead, it's far better to take those suggestions on board and think of how you could implement them in the future. Not only does this help you learn, but it shows you're willing and able to take constructive criticism - a skill that is invaluable in the eyes of an employer.

Other useful traits for turning internships into longer-term job offers include networking, being curious, and setting and managing expectations. But perhaps, the best one of all is this: tell them you want a job and why. After all, unless you do so, they may just assume you’re only after a short-term experience. So ask for what you want and you may just find that one day soon you’re walking back through the doors – only this time it’s for good.

Ready for a graduate role? Employers are constantly adding new opportunities on Paddl, so make sure you sign up.