Like most people, I cycled through a variety of dream jobs before I settled on something I thought might stick. Teacher, astronaut, firefighter, princess, librarian, chef, writer—I wanted to be them all.
Nowhere on that list was “Communications Specialist” at a Fortune 500 company. But that’s exactly where I’ve ended up, and I’m not looking back. I thought my dream job would involve moving out to San Francisco and working for a publishing company—preferably of books, but I was interested in magazine editing too. I even got a tattoo to remind me of my Midwestern roots because I thought I was destined to move far, far away.
As it turns out, a dream job can take many forms. I was cautiously optimistic when I landed my summer internship in my hometown. I’d been told it was a great company to work for, and knew the job would involve writing and helping out with our community relations department. It sounded right up my alley. I never expected I would fall in love with the work I was doing, the place I worked, or the people I was surrounded by. But by week three, I knew that I was exactly where I wanted to be.
There’s no one secret to success, since every internship is different. But if you are in an intern role that you love and you want to turn it into a full time job, there are many things you can do to help your odds.
1. Make Them Forget You’re An Intern
This was easy for me, since I never felt like an intern to begin with; my team made me feel valued and like my work was important from day one, which is part of what made me want to stay. If that isn’t the case with your internship (I know not everyone is so lucky), it’s still important to work hard and work well. Show up on time, and be early if you can. Stay focused when you’re there, and use your time productively. Take your internship as seriously as your co-workers take their full-time jobs, and they might just forget that you aren’t already full-time, too.
2. Position Yourself As A Resource For Your Team
You were hired for a reason. Figure out what your best skills are and what things you bring to the table. The more value you show you add, the more likely people are to notice. If you know your coworkers are drowning in work and you’ve finished your assigned responsibilities, don’t sit around and do nothing. Ask if there’s anything new that you can help with. You’ll learn a lot, you’ll build relationships with your coworkers and you’ll build a reputation as someone your team can count on when they need a hand.
3. Network, Network, Network
Networking is key in the professional world. It helps you make friends, meet experts in different areas that might help you in your role, and discover other opportunities that may be available to you. Before a position opened in my department when a coworker left the company, I was checking job postings every day and meeting anyone I could to learn about their roles. I still work with many of the people I met with in some capacity. It is never a bad idea to meet other people in the company—especially if they do something different from you, since you’ll likely learn a lot from them.
4. Ask Good Questions And Never Stop Learning
You most likely don’t know everything about your company or your role, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. The primary purpose of an internship is to learn, so never stop learning. Seek out as many learning opportunities as you can find. If your company offers sessions where you can meet with senior leaders, go. If they offer resume workshops or other career skills, attend them. Don’t be afraid to shake things up a bit, either. Most places value a fresh perspective, so if there’s something that’s making you ask “Why do we do this?” it’s okay to ask someone to explain it. Be understanding of the fact that some things have to be done the way they are and make sure you don’t overstep your bounds, but if you have ideas that might improve a business function, don’t be afraid to speak up where appropriate.
I have stumbled upon my dream job at the age of 22, and I am excited to get up and go to work every single morning. My summer was a whirlwind of writing about employee volunteering, learning about different business units, hosting our sponsorship booth at the Des Moines Arts Festival and coordinating volunteers for the weekend, volunteering at our charity golf classic, helping coordinate our school supply drive, and many more exciting and challenging things. I never wanted it to end, and I am grateful every day that it didn’t have to.
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