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Internships aren’t just for college students anymore. Here’s how to turn yours into a full-time job

March 15, 2022, 2:52 PM UTC

Thrust into a uniquely challenging job market, the classes of 2021, 2020, and even 2019 are still making up for the time they lost when the COVID-19 pandemic shut the world down. They missed out on in-person graduation, saw internships moved online, and entry-level job offers revoked. While the job market is hot right now, many recent grads are still trying to figure out how to land their dream jobs.

Two years into the pandemic, some of these job-seekers are taking postgraduate internships in an attempt to jumpstart their professional careers. But with a delayed start comes higher stakes, as these internships are no longer about simply getting on-the-job experience.

Like many other recent graduates, hearing horror stories about the hiring market from the class of 2020 led Amelia Pollard to view her postgraduate options with some trepidation. After graduating from Middlebury College in the winter of 2021, Pollard, 23, accepted a paid internship at Bloomberg News with the hope it would lead to something more permanent. 

Aware of the potential risk of job insecurity, Pollard moved to New York City prepared to work in the service industry to make ends meet after her internship ended. “Especially [with] the COVID generation of graduates, you adopt this mindset of doing whatever it takes and just letting it take time,” says Pollard.

A good internship can give a recent grad great exposure and help them build their skills and pad their résumé. And if they’re in the right place, at the right time, doing good work for a manager who’s hiring, it can lead to a job. At the end of her internship, Pollard was hired by Bloomberg News as a rotational reporter, which came with a bump in pay and health insurance.

But before a recent grad takes an internship, there are a few things to consider so they can make sure they’re getting the most from the experience and working toward a clear goal of securing a full-time job.

Put in the work

There’s no playing coy as an intern. In order to prove her value, Pollard felt the need to put in 110% effort, asking for more work and going beyond what she was assigned. 

While interning at Bloomberg News, Pollard wrote a feature article that was longer than typically expected of an intern. She asked her editor about getting a photographer for the project, to make the piece stand out from the hundreds of stories published every day. 

“You never know which project is going to convince who needs to be convinced to hire you,” Pollard says. “I think it’s just the aggregate — you just have to keep on shooting your shot.”

It’s important to be intentional about your effort to avoid getting overwhelmed, says career strategist Bianca Jeanty, who specializes in helping professionals who feel stuck in their careers. 

Putting in 110% every day for every project can be exhausting. Jeanty suggests that interns outline their goals and where they need to grow to reach their career objectives before they start their internship in order to ensure their time is well-spent and they don’t end up spinning their wheels. 

Networking is essential, but it doesn’t need to be awkward 

Internships don’t always lead to full-time roles, so it’s very important to establish relationships with your manager and colleagues, and then work to maintain them. Schedule informal interviews throughout the internship, says Jeanty, and then send emails to update co-workers once the internship is over. It can sometimes feel awkward or forced to forge these connections, but it doesn’t need to be fake.

Brandon Twine, executive coach at PwC, sees networking as an exercise where both the employers and employees build trust. This process is about credibility or following through on tasks you said you’d do with hard work and good results. And there’s also the human side to networking, which is often forgotten. 

“Then there is the softer skills part of it. Transparency, empathy, or personalized relationships, being curious about people beyond just work,” says Twine. 

Networking feels awkward when you haven’t established a rapport, Jeanty says. Asking for a favor doesn’t feel as natural when you don’t have a close relationship with a coworker or supervisor. “People don’t like networking, because they feel like it’s sleazy,” Jeanty says. “And primarily because they’ve seen other people do networking really badly.”

Making full use of the short amount of time you have in an internship program is crucial, says Pollard. Don’t be afraid to cold email your coworkers to grab coffee and learn more about the different teams. She even recommends reaching out to people before your first day and connecting with coworkers on LinkedIn to make introductions. 

It’s also OK to be clear about what you want from the internships, says Paula Luciano, who did two internships at Adobe before she was hired as a full-time digital experience sales development representative. 

“Getting to know and understanding how different people’s roles impact the business at Adobe is important to determining which team you’d like to be on and how you’d like to personally contribute,” says Luciano. 

Don’t be worried about being persistent when letting hiring managers know that you’re interested in joining the team full-time, says Luciano. 

What can this company do for you? 

The Great Resignation and the talent wars can be good for postgrad interns as companies struggle to fill open roles. 

When the company brings in an intern, they really want them to be successful. In an ideal world, it’s a talent pipeline, says Twine. Recruitment can be expensive, and hiring former interns as full-time employees can be a cost-effective way to fill entry-level roles. 

Executives are expected to get to know their interns on an individual basis in a manner that wasn’t expected 20 years ago, Twine says. A supervisor should be putting in the effort to develop a relationship with their interns and set them up for success.

An internship is a test drive for both the employee and employer, says Pollard. It’s not only important for the intern to prove themselves to the company, but also a way for them to decide if they actually enjoy the industry they’re working in or the type of work they’re assigned. It can be a chance to ask questions like, is their boss someone they want to work for, is there chemistry among the team, and can see themselves advancing in the organization.

Taking an internship months or years after graduation can sometimes feel like a step back for twenty-somethings wanting to fast-track their careers. But increasingly these paid positions can open doors to full-time roles. It just takes a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck.

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