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Turn Your Internship into a Job

Turn Your Internship into a Job

Jodi Glickman Brown | Great on the Job

August 09, 2010

As the end of July approaches, you’re probably half way through your summer internship. Whether or not you got a coveted gig at City Hall, it’s time to take stock of your progress and learning and think about what you’ve gotten out of the experience to date and how to make the internship meet your expectations if its not doing so already.

Here are the 4 most common pitfalls of summer interns:

1. Not getting good / meaningful work
2. Not knowing how to do the work you do have
3. Not knowing how well (or poorly) you’re doing
4. Not meeting the right people

Not Getting Good / Meaningful Work

If you’re still fetching coffee every morning and spending more time by the photocopier than in team meetings, then it’s probably a sign that you’re not being challenged quite enough. Think about what you set out to learn this summer and approach your supervisor or mentor to ask for some good practical experience learning how to do X, Y, or Z.

Suggest a few ideas of how you might spend some time advancing your cause in the next few weeks to learn any of those particular skills (“Would it help if I put together a first cut of the presentation for you?” “Would you like me to review the project plan?” “Is there anything I can do to help on the Seagram’s account, I’d love to learn more about the sales process.”

Alternatively, if you know you’re a great writer and you haven’t been given an opportunity to show off your stuff, think about creating an opportunity to excel. Offer to draft a memo, edit a presentation or review a document—anything that will play to your strengths and show off your natural talents and abilities before summer is through.

Not Knowing How to Do the Work You Do Have

If challenging assignments are a dime a dozen and instead you suffer from the opposite problem of having great work but not knowing how to do that work, than you’ve got to learn to Ask for Help. One good way to ask for help includes asking for an example or template of a given assignment—you’d be surprised at how much institutional knowledge usually exists in organizations. Another idea is to ask for recommendations of people to speak with who can help your cause—perhaps Anthony from accounting worked on a similar project last fall. Don’t be afraid to ask for the resources you need to get your job done well.

Not Knowing How Well You’re Performing

There’s always someone who finishes up at the end of August thinking they’ve got a full-time offer in the bag or certain they’ve knocked the ball out of the park in terms of their performance, only to find out instead that, contrary to their own rosy assessment of the summer, they actually didn’t quite make the cut.

The only way to know for sure whether or not you’re meeting expectations is to ask for feedback. Don’t wait for a final conversation with your boss at the end of the summer to ask her how you did—by then it’s too late. Take the initiative now to inquire about your performance. Be specific about what areas of performance you’re looking for feedback on and give her some time to think about it in advance before scheduling the actual conversation. Once you have the actual conversation, be sure to solicit concrete ideas about how to improve or contribute more to your teams over the next few weeks.

Not Meeting the Right People

If you’re halfway through the summer and the only person in the office who knows your name is your mentor, than it’s time to step it up and make the rounds. You don’t have to start dropping by everyone’s office and chatting them up in the middle of the day, but pick three or four people and make a point to reach out to each of them in the next few weeks.

You can email people or stop by their office and ask if they’ve got a few minutes of time to speak with you. Then ask them some smart and pointed questions about what they do for the organization, how they got started in their careers and what advice they have for newcomers. Everyone’s busy, but people love talking about themselves. If you show a genuine interest in their work and career progression, you’ll find that most people are pretty generous in terms of sharing their stories.

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