The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “How can you turn an internship into a full-time job?” is by Dan Rosensweig, CEO of Chegg.
As CEO, this is my absolute favorite time of the year. Over the coming weeks, we will start welcoming another class of interns, who will constitute about 10% of our U.S. workforce. And at some point during the summer, each and every one of them is going to ask me (in one form or another) the same question: How do I turn my summer internship into a full-time job? While we frequently hire recent graduates directly out of our intern pool, the truth is that we aren’t going to hire most of our interns—at least not immediately. For one thing, they tend to have another year or two left in school. For another, not all of them want to work here when they graduate–they have other aspirations and that is perfectly okay. But they’re all smart to at least ask.
And that’s kind of the point: The best interns tend to ask a lot of questions. Whether it be about the company, industry or specific skills–they’re all necessary questions to better help them pursue the right career path. The best interns are bright, naturally curious, and quickly able to build on the skills we teach them, ultimately delivering real value for our company. In short, they’re exactly the type of entry-level people we want to hire.
So when they ask how to turn an internship into a full-time gig–regardless of their age–I always tell them that an internship is a three month job interview. And this is advice that is applicable to any intern at any company. It is as much an opportunity for the company to evaluate college-level talent, as it is for the intern to evaluate potential employers and career tracks. Internships are a huge opportunity for students, because the recent graduates who standout in a competitive job market are the ones who have completed more than one internship. Many recent graduates will be qualified for an entry-level job based on their degrees, but the best candidates will have real world experience.
I tell all of our interns to focus on three things: pursue every opportunity, earn trust by seizing the small stuff, and always be thinking of ways to remain innovative. It’s also important for them to build relationships with their colleagues. Take a real interest in learning about the people who already work at the company–which of course means asking more questions (and listening to the answers). But even as they’re busy asking all of these questions, I also tell them that a lot of the time they’re going to have to find the answers themselves. No question is too small or dumb to ask, but don’t expect to be spoon-fed all the answers.
In my company, we work really hard to ensure that all of our interns have a positive experience, make a meaningful contribution to the business, and learn skills and gain experience that will help them develop in their careers. Sometimes internships don’t work out, for a wide variety of reasons, but there is still value to be extracted from the experience. As with so many things in life, it is going to be up to you to find these answers and maximize the value in the experience.