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How to Turn Your Internship Into Your Career

These five tips will help make that demanding internship into your first dream job. By Sarah Ross | Digital Exclusive

Intern

You’ve probably been lectured on the importance of scoring a great internship more times than you can count. And, to be sure, an internship is a huge step in the right direction—but what about the next step? How can you parlay that internship into the full-time job of your dreams?

For accounting students, there are a couple of pieces of good news. First, according to a 2016 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), 61.9% of internships result in an offer of full-time employment—a 13-year high. Second, the accounting industry is a leader in both number of available internships and converting those interns into full-time hires. A 2014 survey by the networking site LinkedIn showed that an accounting intern was more likely than an intern in any other category to accept a full-time position at the same company during the year following their internship.

But that’s still no guarantee; so what’s an intern to do? Here are five tips for making the most of your internship and coming out the other side with an offer in hand. 

1. Choose the right internship

You can improve your odds of turning an internship into a full-time job before your internship even begins by choosing just the right internship. Make sure you look for established programs with a history of hiring on their interns full time.

Paid versus unpaid also makes a difference. A recent NACE survey reveals that those in paid internships are more likely to receive an offer of full-time employment than those in unpaid internships. Paid internships with private, for-profit companies yielded a 72.2% offer rate, while just 43.9 percent of students in unpaid internships with private, for-profit companies received offers.

 And remember, the interview process is a two-way street. Yes, the company doing the hiring is aiming to judge your qualifications and fit, but this is also your opportunity to learn whether the company in question is right for you. Don’t be afraid to ask about the internship-to-job conversion rate and the corporate culture.           

2. Balance confidence and humility

Deserved or not, the stereotype of the “entitled Millennial” is out there. You’ve learned a lot in your classes, sure, but it’s no substitute for real-world experience. You don’t know everything…and no one will expect you to. An intern is the bottom rung on the ladder, after all. So be confident about your ability to handle tasks, and to learn everything that your internship is ready to teach you. Also, be honest about what you don’t know. If you pretend to understand something you don’t, it can cause confusion later on and hinder the learning process. If you clear it up right away, you can move on with greater knowledge and real confidence.

3. Be a go-getter

An internship is your chance to show an organization how great you are to work with. So no complaining, even if you’re making copies for the 500th time that day or going on yet another coffee run for the rest of the team. Do the “little things” with a positive attitude, and do them like they matter, because they do.

Show off your enthusiasm and your work ethic by taking initiative and filling any downtime you might have. If you’re waiting for your next assignment, ask your supervisor or another team member if there’s anything you can do to help out in the meantime. If you see something that needs to be done around the office, do it.

4. Network, network, network

An internship is a golden networking opportunity, so treat making connections like it’s part of the job. Make an effort to get to know your coworkers, both within your team or department and beyond. Keep your eye out for a mentor, get to know HR and have your elevator pitch (a 30-second summary of you and your career past, present and future) perfected so you can pull it out confidently at a moment’s notice. You never know who you’ll have a chance to chat with in a meeting, in the hallway, or at an after-hours event.

Socialize, but also stay professional. Keep your social networking pages G-rated, and save the alcohol-infused wild nights out for another crowd.

5. Communicate

As mentioned above, no one is going to expect the new intern to be an expert in the accounting field just yet. But employers definitely are looking to be impressed by your “soft skills.” These include things such as teamwork, adaptability, critical thinking and—drumroll please—communication.

In fact, employers responding to NACE’s Job Outlook 2016 survey rated verbal communication skills as the most important a job candidate can possess. So make sure your employer knows you’ve got what it takes in the communications department.

Ask for feedback early and regularly. This not only shows that you value performance-related communication, but it also gives you a better chance to grow and adapt as your internship goes on. Ask thoughtful questions, and make sure you communicate to your supervisor and HR that you desire a full-time position following your internship. And if you don’t get that job offer right away, stay in touch.