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 Shadan Deleveaux, co-founder of Technology For Families in Need.
Internships offer an amazing opportunity to learn a new skill set and maybe even land a new job. The experiences they provide can be essential in developing the practical tools necessary to thrive in the corporate world. After all, being successful in Corporate America takes a unique combination of skills, including the ability to problem-solve, communicate effectively, recognize opportunity, build and maintain relationships, and be resourceful. Since internships are essentially an extended on-the-job interview, it’s not too surprising that the interns who display many of these same characteristics are often successful at turning their internships into full-time offers. And while all of the above qualities, as well as some others, are important, it’s often an intern’s resourcefulness that can separate her from the pack.
When thinking about how to turn an internship into a job, it can be helpful to look at specific behaviors that will all but guarantee disappointing news at the end of the summer. Since internships are generally only eight to 10 weeks long, no one expects an intern to come in and perform like a full-time employee. However, in this time-strapped business reality that we live in, the thing managers appreciate the least is hand-holding someone for the entire summer.
I was recently speaking to a friend of mine who’s responsible for the summer interns at her company this year. One of her biggest frustrations: when interns respond, “I don’t know.” At the beginning of the summer, “I don’t know” is an understandable, if barely adequate, answer. To be clear, an answer more along the lines of, “I don’t know, but where can I look to find out?” shows that you actually desire to be resourceful. In my experience, by mid-summer, the intern who had been asking where to go for answers is likely operating more independently and possesses a greater ability to solve problems than the intern who’s been hand-fed all summer. It’s this type of resourcefulness that stands out to managers.
In a strong internship program, resourceful interns are treated like full-fledged members of the team by the end of the summer, given real responsibilities, and may even be the point of contact on their team for certain things. Interns who aren’t striving to learn the business and add value are probably being given busy work.
During the summer after my first year of business school, I took an internship at a major beauty company. It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. I was charged by my boss to study a specific segment of the hair-care market and then do a comprehensive presentation on it to the team. “Oh, by the way,” she said, “we are going to Paris for a meeting and would like the presentation the day after we return.” To say the least, this assignment put all of my skills to the test. Not only was I completely new to the company, but to the industry, too.
After going back to my desk (and hyperventilating for a bit), I began working on a plan. I realized that this was my boss’s way of testing whether or not I belonged at the company. At this company, as is the case at many places, you learned by doing, not by being hand-held. I had a gargantuan task in front of me, but I recognized that I wasn’t the first person to ever do it. I broke the project down into manageable components and executed on each piece. After an intense week filled with informational meetings and calls with colleagues, I delivered a very comprehensive presentation to the team, complete with new product recommendations. It was well received. My boss’s response was, “Good job. Now start creating those products.” That’s how I spent the rest of the summer, and it was fantastic. At the end, I received a full-time offer.
Resourcefulness is one of the least-talked about—but most-appreciated—qualities in summer interns. The interview process usually screens for intelligence and the ability to communicate and problem-solve, but the intern who masters resourcefulness can set herself apart by being an asset and saving a manager’s time. It’s that quality that will go a long way in helping to secure that full-time offer at the end of the internship.