Your alarm goes off late. You rush through the shower, spill multiple cups of coffee and finally drop at your desk like you jumped out of an airplane. Welcome to your life as an adult human being. It’s not so bad.
Except that, surrounding you, there are a dozen other interns that want to stay on this job just as badly as you do.
That’s pretty much what my time as an intern has been like. Everybody is hoping for a full time job. So how do you maximize your chances of making it happen?
Have three alarm clocks
Not kidding. It’s a basic tip, but still as hard to drill into people as Bruce Willis into an asteroid. You want your boss to know you’re a dependable, potential employee. Be there on time. Mama always said fifteen minutes early means you’re on time. Make this your golden rule from now on.
Watch your P’s and Q’s
Mark Breslaw, People and Culture VP at TELUS, summarized this perfectly when he told me, “Assume you’re always in the spotlight.”
It is ridiculous the number of times interns discuss their employers and the company on off-time, and not in the best of terms. Simply put — if you have nothing nice to say, save it. Gossiping is counterproductive and will probably end up getting you stuck in an embarassing spot.
Grab a notebook. Use your smartphone. Write on your hand. Whatever you do, do not blank on names. I’m sure we can all agree, when someone forgets your name, it brings about feelings of… let’s say, “dismissal.” It makes you feel unimportant. You definitely do not want your potential future co-workers or bosses to think that you see them as unimportant.
Manage your stress
You need to prepare yourself for stressful situations. Stress is a natural consequence of facing new challenges. It can be a motivator, keeping you on your toes, but it can play against you, shake your focus and your general outward impression. Find a way to remain calm and remove stress factors. Go hiking, do yoga, drink weird veggie concoctions (I’ve been living in Vancouver too long), whatever works.
A calm and “ready to solve the problem” attitude will make your boss and co-workers feel at ease when working with you. You’ll become an emotional support and they’ll come back to you as new, more challenging projects arise. They won’t want anyone else working with them on it.
Don’t make assumptions
Life 101: Do not assume anything. Speaking with recruiters, I’ve found that many interns assume their job will be an easy one. Because it’s an internship, some might think the tasks they are given are not important enough or might be below them. They are not.
Let’s be real. Even if a task is unimportant, give it 110% because that’s the only thing your boss will know about you at first — you got the job done. Once they know that, they can try giving you something more challenging.
Say, “Yes if…”
Harrison Alan “Buzz” Price was a leisure-time economist that worked with Walt Disney on the creation of his theme parks and remained as his consultant for many years to come. Price has said again and again that there was no saying, “No” to Walt, but you would have much better luck saying, “Yes, if…”
As an intern, you will be asked to do many new things, some of which (probably most) you’ll learn to do on the job. I’ve seen interns mumble, freeze and even whisper a slight, “Yes?” when presented with these types of new challenges. Although nobody expects you to know how to do everything from the get-go, this type of reaction gives the immediate impression of unpreparedness (it’s a word) and will create yet another chore for your boss. Imagine the difference it would make to answer, “Yes, I can do it, if…” even if that “if” is followed by, “someone shows me how to do it.” Giving a positive answer will make others perceive you as the actual go-getter you are.
Build your Personal Brand
As an intern, you are a question mark. You’re the unknown factor in this big machine that is the organization that hired you. This is the “blank state” — the time in which you’ll decide how you want others to perceive you in the workplace and what kind of employee you want to become.
Mark Breslaw worked as Director of HR at TELUS for 5 years, and has a very interesting take on the importance of building and sharing your own brand in the workplace.
According to Breslaw, just as companies have “cultures”, you have one as well. Think about your own values, goals, ethics and think how that applies to your desired line of work. Knowing who you are and who you want to be in your industry will help you identify if this internship is the right fit for you.
Interning in a company with similar values to your own might help you stand out as a perfect fit for a full time position, or at the very least, make a good lasting impression, and reward you with an enriching experience.
You know those jobs none of the other interns want to do? Those annoying jobs that your boss probably can’t live without? Get off your chair and get them done. Going where others don’t dare to go will show initiative and that you’re hungry for more. Once you do, your boss won’t trust anyone else to do that job properly.
Shine on your own
If your main objective is to compete with the other interns, get in their way or suck up to the boss, let me tell you right now, that energy is definitely better spent shining on your own merits. By following these tips and doing what needs to be done, your boss will trust you to do your job. With that trust comes greater responsibilities, leadership roles in small projects and the general feeling that the office would be hindered if you were to leave.
Soon you’ll find yourself getting other interns to help you with your new responsibilities, giving you the chance to help your colleagues move up as well. The more time and effort you spend excelling at what you do, the more a boss will want, and need, to keep you around.
It’s not always easy and it always is a little scary, but the sooner you get out there and make yourself kick-ass, the sooner everyone will ask themselves how they ever got along without you.
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.