The Leadership Insiders 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 do you turn an internship into a full-time job?” is by Corlis Murray, senior vice president of quality assurance, regulatory, and engineering services at Abbott.
Internships are fantastic ways to learn about the field you’re considering. If they’re quality, they’re going to be tough, demystifying—and meaningful. If you find you like the toughness, are happy with the day-to-day, and are impassioned by the impact the line of work offers, you’re going to want to land a job in that field.
After many years of working with interns, including starting a high school internship program at Abbott (ABT) five years ago, I’ve learned that there are certain ways to market yourself for that dream job post-internship:
Find a cheerleader
Plenty of really smart, wonderful teachers, bosses, and other professionals are willing to cheer you on—if you work to build the right relationships with them.
The obvious benefit of finding cheerleaders is they can rally on your behalf when you want a job. But they’re also great because they give you an extra boost of confidence when making big decisions—which means you look better and feel better, both of which will also help you secure jobs.
I was fortunate to land an internship after my junior year of high school. During that internship, I met a mechanical engineer who ended up being a hugely influential person in my life. He didn’t exactly look or act like a “cheerleader,” but he took me out in the field to troubleshoot large, mainframe systems—the brains for computers at the time—during a time when most female engineers were expected to stay in the office. He taught me how to problem solve. And he discussed with 17-year-old me the technical aspects of what he did, as well as some of the challenges that he had as an African-American in the industry at the time.
He was my implicit cheerleader, but one who demystified what engineers really could do. Without his encouragement, I might not be in the field at all.
Make your own ‘odds’
When I decided to pursue this career, not a single person I knew in the field looked like me.
As a black, female engineer, today, I’m about 10 times more rare than a woman in Congress. While 104 women held seats in Congress last year, just about 12% of engineers in the U.S. are women, and a small percentage of them are minorities (2% are black).
What you need to remember is if there aren’t very many people like you in your chosen field, you have the opportunity to offer a new perspective. You just have to dig down deep enough to figure out what your unique perspective is.
We offer high school, college, and MBA-focused internships at Abbott, not only to attract bright, young people to science and engineering jobs, but to hear their perspectives. If you’re a millennial or part of Generation Z, you probably have a different perspective than your boss. Vet it out and offer it up.
If you’re struggling to figure out your unique offering, spend some time investing in yourself: Join professional networks, take on challenging and diverse projects, enroll in courses at a local college, and network inside and outside of work.
Know the business
In addition to knowing your unique offering and showcasing your intellect and skills during your internship, you also better know the business.
If you don’t think you can articulate how what you do contributes to your company’s responsibility to turn a profit and do right by shareholders, employees, and communities, spend some time mapping it out.
Whatever company you’re interested in—whether the one you’re at now or another—read the annual reports to gain an understanding of customers, sales channels, and costs. Investigate markets, competitors, and customers. Listen in to earnings calls and pay attention. If you’re there already, ask about the company’s strategy, how it was conceived, and how the company uses analytics to guide decisions.
And after you’ve done all of that, figure out where you are in that strategic universe. Once you can answer the “impact” question for yourself, you’re on your way to landing a job—and seriously impressing your future boss.