From Intern to Employee: 5 Unwritten Rules for Landing a Full-Time Gig
By MacKenzie Jones
Do you repeatedly find yourself scrolling through advice articles and reading the same “Top Tips for Turning an Internship Into a Full-Time Job” or the “10 Things You Must Do to Land a Job After Your Internship”? You can read only so many of the same tips. And while this advice shouldn’t be ignored or overlooked, let’s face it, most of this stuff is commonsense.
If you’re looking for more of the nitty-gritty and less of the typical, take 10 minutes and read just one more advice article: You won’t regret it. These 5 things helped me lock down a full-time job at the company I interned with, and 2 years later I’m still here. On second thought, I work in advertising, so maybe don’t take my advice at all if you know anything about the crazy people who enjoy #AgencyLife.
1. Be sure that you want a job with the company at which you’re interning.
Most people who get an internship hope that it leads to a full-time job. Not landing a position, however, shouldn’t be considered a failure. Interning teaches you what you like in an organization — its people and processes — but you also learn exactly what you don’t like. It’s really the best-case scenario. You work 3 to 6 months at a company that’s (most likely) paying you to experience a trial run working for them. If you’re passionate about the work, prove you’re a dedicated employee with the potential to bring more to the table, and fit into the culture, chances are pretty good you’ll be offered a full-time job. On the other hand, if after 3 months you’re bored with your everyday tasks and assignments and don’t see a future for yourself within the organization, then when your last day rolls around you get to say thank-you, wave goodbye, and never have to walk through the doors again.
2. Do sweat the small stuff.
It’s a year later, and you’ve decided that you want to work at this company. The next step is to observe all the people around you. News flash: They already work there.
Pay close attention to every detail — the way the employees dress, talk, interact, and eat (yes, eat; it’s important). Do they take the suggested half hour for lunch or do they extend it to an hour and get outside for fresh air or a coffee? Do they chat about their weekends on Monday? Are they friends on social media? Does it seem like everyone is always 5 minutes early for meetings (you’re an intern, so you should be anyway), or is the whole room in awe when the meeting starts and ends on time? These small professional and social cues may not seem like a big deal, but it’s just the opposite. The more you recognize what’s expected versus what’s done, and what’s typical versus what’s out of the ordinary, the easier you’ll adapt to the environment you’re hopefully asked back to work in, and fit in with the people you’d work with. Get yourself one step closer to your goal by finding a balanced and happy medium in this mix, and you’ll appear as though you’re already a part of the team. Keep in mind, if you’re scrutinizing your colleagues’ every move, chances are they’re doing the same to you.
3. Persuade someone to be your mentor.
Yes, you read that right. Don’t wait around for someone in the company to see your potential, make them see it. You should have already stalked enough of your coworkers and determined who you’re going to prompt into being your mentor over coffee or lunch. Whether you’re working in a specific department or moving from team to team based on who needs help, parlay someone who not only has the experience, knowledge, and desire to teach you the tricks of the trade, but also the time. This should be someone who can offer advice and guidance, see the big picture for you at this company and beyond, and ultimately connect you with the right people. Make an effort to cultivate this relationship. Having a strong connection with someone in the organization who’s successful, has pull, and is well liked is one of the simplest ways to obtain permanent employment.
4. Work hard, but play hard, too.
Now take this with a grain of salt. There’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed as far as being too casual, but don’t be so professional that people think you can’t let loose and have a good time. Your coworkers are people with whom you share a common interest — the industry in which you’ve chosen to dedicate at least 2,000 hours a year. Let that sink in. You will spend at least 2,000 hours a year with these people, so skip the small talk and actually make an effort to forge friendships. Meaningful bonds and memories with your coworkers made outside the office are sure to provide a few laughs and keep you sane, but they can also boost your productivity and collaborative efforts inside the office. Long story short, be professional and get things done, but don’t be a robot.
5. Stand out.
Again, take this with a grain of salt. You need to be memorable and confident, but memorable in a positive light and not overly confident. It’s a fine line, one that’s tricky if overthought. Put simply, if you blend in with the rest, no one will remember your name, and if they can’t remember your name, you certainly won’t be getting a call to come back. Make a lasting impression by showcasing the unique qualities that set you above the rest of the interns and make you the best candidate for a full-time job. Did you play a sport competitively in college? Talk about how, because of that experience, you’re a natural team player and never settle for less than the best. Are you in a local band? Invite your coworkers to come and see you perform. If you showcase your creative skills in a different light, you’re bound to have more common interests with your coworkers, which is the easiest way to make a lasting impression.
Lastly, always remember: It’s just an internship, and there are 100 more where that one came from.
MacKenzie Jones | corporate communications
Jones, a former Fingerpaint intern and recent graduate of George Mason University, works across all agency disciplines as she strategically targets new business opportunities where Fingerpaint has the ability to lend expertise from a creative, branding, PR or social media standpoint. She is skilled at market research and competitive analysis.
Jones played lacrosse at George Mason University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing.
“MacKenzie is a versatile team player who already knows her way around Fingerpaint,” Ed Mitzen, Fingerpaint founder, said. “Her energy and enthusiasm, coupled with her marketing instinct, will absolutely provide an assist to our growing new business team.”