Summer internships are increasingly useful for attaining permanent employment. Some companies, such as Procter & Gamble, now stick to a strict promote-from-within policy where upwards of 80 percent of entry-level hires may have interned with the company. And many of the companies currently eagerly eyed by MBAs, including consulting firms McKinsey and Bain and investment banks like Goldman Sachs, draw heavily on previous summer interns for their entering classes as well. In fact, Bill Wright-Swadel, the undergraduate career director for Harvard University, says that he's even seen companies give "exploding offers" to juniors who've just finished internships. Those job offers must be accepted before September of senior year, when recruiting season gets into full swing, else they "explode" - disappear. In fact, as internships become an ever-surer route toward permanent jobs, it looks worse if an intern doesn't get an offer to return full-time (even if he has no intention of actually working at the company.) As Peter Verucki, career director of Vanderbilt's business school, told The Wall Street Journal
"When you interview for full-time jobs next year, companies will ask if the company you interned with wants you back. You want to be able to say yes."
But not all internships are so regimented or sure routes to permanent employment. For internships at smaller organizations, schmoozing and hard work are still needed to turn internships into full-time jobs. Bob, an intern with an NBA basketball team, says he started as a floater. "I did research in the team files," says Bob. "The team was being sued." In the meantime, Bob's cheery, uncomplaining attitude and snazzy wardrobe endeared him to the director of publicity. He was well-positioned: "when an intern in PR left. I took his place." Bob's new slot enabled him to attend games, and though his hours doubled, so did his contacts within the organization.
Bob found that he genuinely liked most of the people at his workplace. After he returned to school, he kept in contact with his co-workers there and visited during spring break. Bob estimates that he kept in touch with about five people from the NBA, and says "It wasn't about getting a job. Well, there was gain involved, but it wasn't just that."
Four tips for turning your summer internship into a job:
- Show a sincere interest in the firm. Go to the summer events. When the firm has a lot of work, come in early and stay late, just like the regular employees.
- Take every opportunity to talk to/schmooze/impress the senior people at your workplace. (Remember: at most firms, the senior people count most when it comes time to hand out full-time job offers.) But remember - these people have been working at the company longer than you, so attempts to dazzle them with your unparalleled grasp of the industry may backfire on you. Simply express your opinion or interest in the work that you've been doing, ask questions, and talk about something else besides work. Remembering you as the bright young intern who seemed so interested in the Latin American operations and who liked to water-ski gives that higher-up two different pieces of positive information.
- At the same time, don't be so zealous in schmoozing your supervisors and their supervisors that you ignore the junior people. Many workplaces will ask employees a year or two above you for their opinions on your performance and demeanor, sometimes people from your university. Ignoring these potential future coworkers taint you as a brown-noser and may hurt your chances at the firm.
- Even if you've decided that the summer internship isn't one you want to turn into a job, do your best to get a job offer. When you interview for permanent employment, you'll probably be asked whether or not you were asked to return to work at the place you interned at.