I recently had the privilege to meet up with my T-Howard mentee to help her think through how she could make the best of her last few weeks of her internship. After 6 weeks of interning, she realized she loved her company and could see herself working there full-time. She’d sought regular feedback from her supervisors, taken advantage of employee programs, attended lunch and learns, and even reached out to executives for informational interviews. “I want to be hired here after I graduate,” she told me. “What else can I do?”
She deserved to be commended for all that she’d done to date. Taking advantage of company offerings, seeking feedback, and meeting with leadership are all important pieces when it comes to understanding the company culture and making a lasting impression. As an intern, her role was to test if the culture worked for her as much as it was to work hard and get noticed.
Despite all that she was doing right already, she was open to learning what more she could be doing. Throughout my career, I’ve learned that pushing myself to be better, even when I thought I was doing well, has had a major impact.
In the case of my mentee, I recommended a few actionable items to help her get full-time employment post graduation that I think can apply to any intern nearing the end of their internship:
Get on the radar of HR. The campus recruiter who helped you get hired and the person who handles entry-level employees are great places to start. Chances are they are heavily involved in the internship program anyway and have an awareness of who you are. Send a mid-summer check-in note. You can emphasize your gratitude and some takeaways from your internship thus far.
Ask your supervisor. Your boss had to get hired at some point. S/he has the best insight to you and to company processes. Be candid about your desire to come back as an entry-level hire. Hopefully you’ve built a strong relationship with your boss. S/he can leverage personal connections with HR or other employees to get you on the right person’s radar when it’s hiring time.
Meet with entry-level employees. Interns have the great advantage of gaining access to executives. Taking advantage of that resource is key, but balance that with informational with entry-level employees. They are where you will be post-graduation and can tell you best what it’s REALLY like to get started. Executives can offer you many pearls of wisdom, but are frequently removed from the challenges of starting out a career. This isn’t an either/or. Seek time with both if you can.
Buy thank you notes. A hand-written thank you note in this digital age is almost as good as gold. Sure, some people will read them and throw them out instantly, but they’ll definitely remember the effort. On the other hand, you may touch a hard-working person who hadn’t even realized they made an impact on you. Some people will leave your card hanging in their cube/office
Proactively think about how you will stay in touch. Take mental notes of the priorities and interests of all the people you’ve met with. Demonstrate your interest in them and the business by sharing relevant messages that speak to those priorities and interests. Generally speaking 1-2 notes a quarter are sufficient, but definitely feel free to suggest coffee if you are home for fall or winter break.
My mentee identified her end game early and was therefore able to strategize how to get herself where she wanted to be. She was also doing many things well, but was still open to hearing what she else she could do. Whether you are an intern or have 10+ years of work experience, a goal requires some strategy for how to achieve it. As you’re thinking through how you will achieve your goal, remember that no matter how good you are, there can always be a blind spot, or some things that get overlooked. It can be really helpful to ask a mentor or coach to help you identify what might be missing for you.
C-Suite Swag tip: Keep a sweater or blazer at your desk. Summer attire at may offices may be a bit more casual, but having a blazer/sweater ready can come in handy if you get pulled into an executive/client meeting.