Make the most of your internship

"Treat each day like a job interview," John A. Challenger, chief executive of the Chicago-based outplacement company, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, advises college students embarking on summer internships.

"You want to set yourself apart from your fellow interns by exceeding expectations," Challenger wrote, pointing out that companies use internships to evaluate the performance of potential employees under real-world conditions. Keep in mind that Challenger's company provides job-seeking advice to people who have lost their jobs.

"The higher up the executive you impress," Challenger wrote, "the greater the odds that a permanent position will be found for you." Remember, he said, that the person supervising the intern may be relatively low on the corporate totem-pole, so interns need to be deliberate in their efforts to meet managers and executives who make hiring decisions.

To keep it simple, I've copied the rest of his advice -- parents, you might want to print this out and give it to your children, or if that is too-old school, send a link to this blog. Lately, I have written a little mini-blog series on Millennials. You can find them by clicking here, here and here. Just to add a little urgency to your nagging, you can click here to read the series my colleagues and I wrote about the struggles of the Millennial generation to find work. Here's my story on what happened to the jobs. .

Now, onto Challenger's advice:

Treat your internship as a real job. 

The best way to prove you are qualified for a permanent position is through action.  Think of your internship as a trial period or extended interview for obtaining the position you desire.  Always be on time and meet deadlines.  Maintain a positive attitude and show that you are eager to learn and succeed by seeking out feedback to improve your performance and develop new skills. 

Take initiative and exceed expectations. 

By taking initiative you can show management what you are capable of.  Do not be afraid to voice your own ideas, offer solutions, and ask questions.  Show interest in attending meetings and seek out extra work and new projects.  When you go above and beyond the minimum, you demonstrate your commitment level and gain the attention of management.

Dress according to company dress codes. 

While you want to stand out from the pack, you don’t want to draw attention to yourself for the wrong reasons.  By dressing professionally you reinforce the impression that you can adapt to and fit in with the company’s culture. 

Keep track of your contributions and accomplishments. 

Keep track of the projects you worked on, your individual contributions, and the results achieved.  Having a tangible record of your achievements with the company is a helpful tool in convincing a manager why you should be hired full time.

Network, network, network. 

Developing contacts inside and outside of your department is extremely important.  Schedule lunches or meetings with company managers and executives to give them a better understanding of what you’re about and what you plan on accomplishing.  Find a mentor to teach you the ropes of the organization and offer advice on company politics.  The contacts you make through your internship could prove invaluable throughout your time at the organization and throughout your career. 

Ask about available entry-level positions. 

Let your employer know that you would like a job with that particular organization.  Ask about what positions are available and express your interest in them.  An employer will be more likely to consider you for a position if they know you are interested in it. 

Stay in contact. 

If you don’t get hired for a position immediately after your internship ends, stay in touch.  Check-in with your contacts and provide updates on your progress.  This will help to keep you in the forefront for the employer’s mind when a position opens. 

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