In my post on how to find a job that isn’t advertised, I received a comment that inspired this post. For those who haven’t seen it, Lauren shared her situation with us:
“My problem is that I can’t get any other title than intern because of the economy. With this being my 5th internship, I feel like I have paid my dues. I don’t need a huge salary. I just need something permanent.”
I felt that the best way to offer relevant advice to both Lauren and any other readers who are struggling with the same problem would be to get some tips from career experts. For this post, career experts from Careerrealism.com share their thoughts on how you can try to turn things around:
1. Before You Start an Internship
With a full-time position being the ultimate goal, it pays to be upfront when you first seek an internship. You can lay some groundwork for getting a gig at that very company if you make your intentions clear from the start.
“Make sure that when you accept the internship, you make it professionally clear that your goal is to secure a full-time position. If the internship doesn’t have that potential, don’t take it.” – Deborah Shane, Chief Motivator, Educator and Catalyst
“It’s a step in the right direction if you can get the company to commit to some form of payment, even if it’s only travel assistance. Any little bit of money helps to get you out of the ‘working for free’ category and that’s a good place to be.” – Ben Eubanks, Human Resources Professional and Blogger
2. During Your Internship
How you present yourself during your time as an intern can make all the difference if a paid role becomes available.
“Own the job while you are there, and act as if you already work there. Express leadership by volunteering for extra responsibility and look for ways to impact the workplace. Make sure that your professional image is the right fit for the work environment you are interning in.” – Deborah Shane
3. After the Internship Has Finished
You may not be an intern any longer, but that shouldn’t be the end of things. See if you can turn the situation around to your advantage:
“Are the companies not interested in hiring after the internship? If you performed well but they aren’t pursuing you further for hire, then you need to make a case in point that you can fill some sort of need that the organization has. It’s hard to do that from the outside, but you’ve seen the inside of the company warts and all. Find a problem that’s tied to what the company’s core competencies are, and make the case that hiring you will save them money in the long run since you already know the culture, people, etc.” – Ben Eubanks
You’ve gained some potentially valuable contacts, so why not use them to your advantage in your job search?
“Secure referral letters and references from your internships. In addition to this, maintain your relationships after an internship period is up in order to continue networking with former supervisors and co-workers. Let them know you’re searching for a full-time opportunity and ask them if they know anyone that you can meet with to receive advice or guidance.
Also, ask for feedback from internships. There may be a reason why you’re landing internships as opposed to full-time gigs, and a former or current supervisor can help clue you in.” – Heather R. Huhman, Founder & President of Come Recommended
4. Getting Your Resume Right
If you’re struggling to even get to the interview stage after your internship is completed, chances are that your resume doesn’t hit the mark. Even a resume that looks fine might be screaming all of the wrong things to a prospective employer. Here are tips for presenting the experience gained from an internship on your resume:
“My advice is that you revisit your resume and exercise some critical thought as to whether it shows accomplishments from your internship. While some internships ‘take advantage’ of job seekers and involve the intern only getting coffee and doing other mundane tasks, many other internships offer an opportunity to have ownership of a particular project. Have you properly displayed the vale you added to your company during your internship? Failure to do so can be a huge obstacle.
The next step is to hone in on target companies/jobs and use your networking skills to find out if there is anyone in your contact ‘universe’ that can provide the inside track on who might be the hiring manager or could potentially be an internal advocate for you. Leveraging those internships can pave a smoother road to an interview for a target job.” – Dawn Rasmussen, Pathfinder Writer and Career Services
“The great thing about internship experience is that you’re often asked to take on projects with actual monetary benefits associated with them, and this is the exact type of data you’ll need to create a powerful resume – and get noticed for your contributions. After you’ve given some thought to the ROI associated with each of your internship roles, it’s time to break out of the but-its-not-paid-work rut and list your top 3 projects on your resume under the “Achievements” headline. You’ll want to highlight the gains that these employers experienced because of your work.
Next, list the jobs under “Relevant Experience” or “Professional Experience” (NOT under college experiences or internships). While the word “intern” may slip in here and there, your goal is to remind employers that you were treated as an employee, with the same expectations and workload during your tenure.
After your resume is in order, then it’s time to switch up your networking practices and elevator speech. When asked what you do, responding with “I help companies improve their productivity and deliver critical projects on time” goes a lot further than “I’ve been working internships since graduating from school.” – Laura Smith-Proulx, Executive and professional resume writer, LinkedIn coach, former recruiter and founder of An Expert Resume
As you can see, there’s a lot you can do to leverage your internship experience into getting a quality, full-time job. Ultimately, you need to be using these internships to your advantage and now allow them to be looked upon negatively.
Did you successfully make the jump from an internship to a paid job role? Can you offer any additional tips for anyone who is struggling with the transition? As always, comments are appreciated!