Consider this scenario: You’re hunting for a new job and you’ve come across one that has an unconventional screening process. You’re told that before the employer decides to hire you, you must endure a series of daily interviews over a two-month span. That’s right, every day someone is watching you—like an amoeba under a high-powered microscope—and picking you apart while trying to figure out one thing: whether you’re worthy of that coveted full-time offer. Most people would rather walk on hot coals or hole up in an apartment watching reruns of The Brady Bunch than put themselves through that torture.
Well, that’s the essence of a summer internship. You might not have to answer probing questions about your strengths and weaknesses every day, but you will be subjected to endless scrutiny during that 10- to 12-week stint. So before trashing your boss’s cheap shoes to fellow interns or telling that raunchy joke at the water cooler, remember that you’re being watched, judged, dissected.
The good news, however, is that although there aren’t any guarantees you’ll snag a full-time offer even if you perform up to the level of Jack Welch, there are some win-win strategies to guide you through the summer and straight into your own leather chair—and full-time health insurance—come fall.
It’s pretty safe to assume that most employers know you’d love to get an offer for a full-time job once the summer has ended. But don’t take that fact for granted. “As soon as you decide you love the company—and, if you’re lucky, the executives you’re working with—make sure everyone knows you want to come back,” says Margot Carmichael Lester, a career coach based in North Carolina. That includes your boss, coworkers, and the support staff—who often have the ear of the big guns. And don’t forget good ol’ HR. Double check that your name is in the system, lest they forget.
Pick your spots, though. A hard sell won’t necessarily lead to a hard offer. Broadcasting your feelings to the boss in, say, the men’s or ladies’ room will screw up your chances.
Act like a full timer
Never think like a temp. Don’t blow off an assignment you think you won’t finish before the summer stint ends or act like a prima donna rather than a team player.
If you have any desire to get hired, appear like you’re in it for the long haul. Show an interest in the company and learn as much as you can about the industry. Read the trades to gain even more knowledge about the business and competitors.
Furthermore, try to become a ‘go to’ source for information. That means turning yourself into a guru on a subject, familiarizing yourself with things that others in the office aren’t focusing on, and sharing your wisdom and insights with key management.
Also, go out of your way to help others. Stay late and offer assistance when others at the company are overloaded with work. Establish these habits the first day you set foot in your cubicle. It’s never too early to act like you’re already an indispensable part of the permanent workforce.
You might have an A average, but you still don’t know it all—and, guess what: You aren’t expected to. A vice president and recruiting manager at JP Morgan Chase, has seen it time and again, particularly with MBAs in summer internships. They believe they should be a combination of Einstein and Warren Buffett, and if they don’t know the answer they’ll try to fudge things. In those cases, the truth becomes obvious—quickly.
“It’s usually something simple that hangs people up, something that would have taken 10 minutes to solve and saved two weeks of work if the person had asked,” says the recruiting manager.
Still, be smart about whom you seek answers from and when. If you’ve got questions about PowerPoint, don’t corner the senior vice president at an important cocktail party and press her for answers. An associate might be a better choice—or turn to mentors for their opinion. “It’s definitely a judgment game,” says the recruiting manager.
Get the right ’tude
You take a summer job assuming that everyone knows you’re smart. But then one jerk has the audacity to ask you to fax a lease to his landlord. Another lets you know she likes her coffee light with no sugar. This, experts say, is the one time you should suck it up. Don’t tell people “that’s not in my job description” or that you have a 3.8 GPA. The three most important attributes in getting or keeping a job are attitude, attitude, attitude. A positive mental attitude, no matter what happens, is a key to landing a job.
Indeed, do everything with a smile, even if it’s no more challenging than sharpening six No. 2 pencils. And don’t complain about your boss or what you don’t like at the company, not even to other summer associates. Cutting the legs out from under a supervisor who knows squat about Six Sigma could come back to haunt you.See You in September: How to Turn a Summer Internship into a Full-time Job Offer by Harrison Barnes