5 Tips to Help You Turn Your Internship Into a Job Before You Even Graduate

Kelly Smith receives her diploma during the University of Tampa college graduation at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, Fla Saturday, May 6, 2017.
Kelly Smith receives her diploma at the University of Tampa commencement ceremony at the Florida State Fairgrounds. Smith was able to turn her internship at The Penny Hoarder into a full-time job. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

On the first day of spring semester of my junior year in college, I told myself one thing:

“I will get an internship by the end of February.”

And you know what? I did, right here at The Penny Hoarder.

Little did I know, the internship would open the door to my first full-time job — which I happened to land before I finished my undergraduate degree.

5 Tips to Help You Go From Intern to Full-Time Employee

I’m not the only person who has managed to do it; there are plenty of others out there who have, too.

If you’re looking to rock your internship and be offered a job after (or even while you’re still in school!), check out these tips.

1. Say Yes to Pretty Much Everything

Intern to Full-Time - Say Yes to Pretty Much Everything

Kristy Gaunt / The Penny Hoarder

From my experience, saying “yes” to a wide variety of tasks at my internship did wonders for me.

Doing so brought me face-to-face with challenges I had never experienced before. It exposed me to a number of departments, to software that was new to me and more. Even if I wasn’t sure of how to go about a task, I would dive right in and try my best to figure it out. Of course, I asked for help or guidance when I needed it — but only when I was completely lost.

By the time my internship was up, I was known to be quite the multitasker — and problem solver.

By the time I got hired, I had everything from photo coordination to process development under my belt. I knew the in’s and out’s of workflows, learned the value of time management and even held the responsibility of training new employees on our task management platforms.

My supervisors trusted me because I proved I was more than capable of handling it all.

Saying yes to everything also taught me how to say no to tasks I didn’t have the bandwidth for. It’s one thing to take on tasks; it’s another to actually finish them.

2. Know What’s Expected of You as an Intern

Setting clear expectations between you and your supervisor from the start is the most important thing to do, says Valerie Sutton, director of career services at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.

You will want to discuss the days and hours you are expected to work, the best forms of communication, how often they want to be updated on projects, and what resources are available to support you in your work (laptop, desk space, knowledge network, etc.),” Sutton wrote in an email.

When you know what’s expected of you every day, you’ll be able to measure your own progress. Are you on track with your work? Have you fallen behind? Or, even better — are you exceeding expectations?

For Kim Vogel, talent acquisition lead at The Penny Hoarder, interns who exceed expectations are the ones who make for good full-time candidates.

“Go above and beyond what your internship tasks are,” says Vogel. “Leave little to no doubt that they will not not be able to function without you.”

If a company can’t function without you, then they’ll be faced with a decision: bring you on before you graduate or risk losing you after your internship is up?

3. Stay Curious

Intern to Full-Time - Stay Curious

Kristy Gaunt / The Penny Hoarder

Dan Green, CEO of media company Growella, assists in running the company’s internship program. While the program focuses on getting students real-world experience — as well as credits toward their degree — he and his staff also evaluate and develop interns as future company employees.

What makes Green want to bring someone on full-time?

Curiosity.

When we hire an intern who’s curious, we find that they’re willing to push personal boundaries to be more, and to do more,” Green wrote in an email. “They’re driven to explore new ideas. They find ways around roadblocks and make excellent contributions to our team.”

So ask questions. Challenge your challenges. The end result could be you reaching areas of work that you may have never imagined — all while, again, making it hard for them to let you go.

4. Pinpoint Problems, Then Offer Solutions

James Pollard, marketing consultant at TheAdvisorCoach.com, has worked with many interns over the years. He notes one of the most valuable ways an intern can show that they’re worth hiring is to be a problem solver.

“Start asking the higher-ups in the company what they’re struggling with, what their pain points are, etc.,” Pollard wrote in an email. “Take lots of notes and start doing your research on what these problems are and how you can help.”

After carefully observing and brainstorming, Pollard recommends presenting your solutions to the appropriate people. In doing so, you’re not only showing initiative, but you’re also displaying problem-solving skills.

“After all, in any career, you are getting paid to solve problems, says Pollard.

Being an active participant in offering solutions will raise your value at the company. In doing so, you could make strides toward being asked to offer solutions full-time.

5. Make the Most of It

Liz Valeri, digital marketing strategist at Coalmarch Productions, started at Coalmarch as a marketing intern. While she received constant feedback about the actual day-to-day work she was doing, there was one piece of feedback that resonated with her the most: This internship is what you make of it.

It was really up to me to determine how I wanted this internship to go — I could just come to work, keep quiet, and get my tasks done, or I could make an effort to attend company events, ask to sit in on meetings and truly get to know each and every team member,” Valeri wrote in an email.

Valeri states that immersing yourself in the company culture is something only you are in control of. After building relationships with coworkers, Valeri says you’ll soon be an employee the company doesn’t want to live without.

Ready to Get Started?

If you’re ready to dazzle employers by being a stellar intern, then now is the time to start thinking about how to make it happen.

Here are a few ways you can get started with your internship search — and what to do after you land one.

  • Hit up your career services center at school. It’s is a great resource students can use to find internships they may be interested in.
  • Consider some of these side gigs if you end up taking an unpaid internship. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and take a really great opportunity that’s unpaid (just make sure it isn’t illegal) — but that doesn’t mean you have to be broke during it.
  • Find a mentor. Having someone to turn to when you need help navigating your internship can do wonders in the long run. They’ll be there to answer your questions, help you figure out how to approach situations, and more.

Good luck!

Kelly Anne Smith is a junior writer and engagement specialist at The Penny Hoarder. Catch her on Twitter at @keywordkelly.