What Every Intern Gets Wrong About Landing a Job

July 19, 2016, 1:30 AM UTC
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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 Dan Bursch, program director for MBA@UNC, University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School.

Over the past 10 years, I’ve had the opportunity to discuss mentorship and individual success with hundreds of MBA students and working professionals. For those trying to convert an internship into a full-time job, I’ve found these four approaches to be valuable:

Listen and read between the lines
Listening might sound simple, but there are several layers to it. Certainly listen for what you’re supposed to be doing, but don’t limit an internship opportunity by only working on what was listed in the job description.

Listen to what they actually want from interns, and to the people around you—your supervisor, their colleagues, and their leadership. This will help you get an idea, not only of what they’re looking for from employees, but of the organization’s culture. By observing how they interact with one another, you can assess whether it’s an environment you want to be in long term and how you can fit in.

Adapt and stretch yourself
Be willing to adapt and show versatility to an organization. This ties back to the first point of listening: Pay attention to needs and shifts in responsibilities, and be ready to jump in. The more opportunity you have to showcase your skill set, the more likely you are to impress a broader array of people at the company.

See also: The 2 Questions Interns Should Ask to Prove They Want a Full-Time Position

While working on a project, consider reaching further. Volunteer to work with other managers to gain additional perspectives related to the project, and you’ll create a broader, lasting impression. Not only will this develop your own skills on a personal level, but it will be useful in forging your connections and opening up additional career paths.

Stay focused
It’s called an internship—not a friendship. While intern happy hours and social events can be great, don’t lose focus of the main goal: getting the job. It’s not the time to be distracted by social relationships with other interns or people you work with. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t form any relationships—rather, keep in mind that your purpose in this position is not to make friends, but to get hired. If you base your actions and decisions on that goal, you will be more likely to make the right impression.


Always be on
An internship is essentially an extended interview, and you have to “be on” at all times. Even if the job doesn’t work out, you can still leverage the connections you made at the organization in finding other opportunities.

Don’t get complacent because you landed the intern gig. Your managers will be looking at your entire time with the company and evaluating you on the entire experience. And understanding that is key in transitioning into that full-time job.