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 Edward Fleischman, CEO of The Execu|Search Group.
Rule number one: Treat any internship like a working interview. The company you’re interning at may or may not hire interns for full-time positions, but you should still put your most professional foot forward. Even if you’re not offered a full-time job when your internship is over, the connections you make can be invaluable as you progress in your career.
You should start exhibiting professional behavior from day one. When you first interview for the internship, be sure to take notice of what people in the office are wearing. That way, on your first day, you can make an effort to wear clothes that either match the level of formality in the office or slightly exceed it. And be sure to show up early.
When it comes time to get to work, you should focus on putting your best effort into every task you’re assigned. Some assignments may bore you to tears, but you should still put in the same effort and attention to detail that you would for the more exciting projects. By consistently producing high-quality results—whether you’re setting up a conference room or taking notes in a meeting—you’ll prove to your manager and others at the organization that you’re a capable professional who is willing to take on any task.
Even if you do a great job on your assignments, there may be times when you have little or no work to do. Although this may seem like an inefficient use of time, it’s important to be mindful of the fact that full-time employees have a lot on their plates, and don’t always have time to create projects for interns. But this is a golden opportunity for you. Be proactive in offering to help out (without being an annoyance, of course), and show your excitement for having a role in the company. It’s a good idea, though, to ask your manager at the beginning of your internship if he or she would like you to ask for work or wait to be assigned a task. Different managers will have different preferences for this kind of communication, and figuring out how your manager operates early on will allow you to be as helpful as possible.
Building relationships with your manager and coworkers is vital in order to maximize your chances of being hired full time. Once you’re a few weeks into your internship, ask your manager to get coffee or lunch to discuss his or her career. Creating relationships through these types of informal meetings can have tremendous value in securing a full-time job and strengthening your professional network.
Your professionalism should also extend beyond the office. You should make an effort to participate in office social events, but always prioritize your professionalism over trying to be “cool” or fit in. Many interns (and full-time employees) have found themselves out of a job the day after partying too hard at a company happy hour, so get to know your coworkers, but always remain businesslike and in control.
Toward the end of your internship, let your manager know how much you enjoyed working at the company and ask if there’s an opportunity to be considered for a full-time role. Either way, be sure to maintain the relationships you developed at that company by writing personalized thank-you notes to everyone you worked with. Additionally, add your manager and coworkers on LinkedIn (LNKD) so you have an easy way to stay in touch with them.