Top 10 Tips for Sailing Into a Full-time Position From an Internship
For many students, an internship represents a wide open sea of possibility, helping to solidify their job prospects and building familiarity with a work environment and responsibilities. For companies, internships can be a valuable recruitment vessel and a means of providing additional support to the existing workforce. The internship can be traced back to apprenticeships of the Middle Ages during which a young novice worked alongside a Master, learning the tricks and tools of a particular trade. While modern internships tend to be leagues away from from the labor in exchange for food, lodging and teaching arrangements of long ago, the premise of learning alongside professionals remains the same.
In the last five years at Coyne PR, nearly 40 employees were hired from internship positions into full-time roles, with 40 percent of the most recent intern class staying on as employees, making the agency’s award-winning internship program one of the main streams through which entry level employees join the company.
“There are many reasons why it benefits Coyne PR to hire our interns,” explains Clara Heffernan, Senior Vice President of Human Resources at Coyne PR. “First and foremost, the company sees how each student would operate as an employee in real-life scenarios before making a full-time employment commitment. Additionally, when an intern becomes an employee, they are already familiar with how things work, so there is less ramp up time and they become more productive sooner. From the perspective of the interns, they get to experience what life is like at Coyne and decide if we are a fit for them. Ultimately, retention rates are higher with interns than employees who did not have that opportunity. It’s truly a win for both us and them!”
Work ethic results in smooth sailing …
There is no magic formula for what makes a great intern, but in talking to 15 former Coyne interns currently in various roles at the agency, there are several key factors that interns can focus on to get noticed and increase the likelihood of a full-time offer. When asked why they think they were hired out of their internships, not a single employee cited robust media lists, flawless coverage audits or comprehensive brainstorm notes. Instead, dedication, passion, initiative and work ethic were referenced by all.
Producing quality work is important, but what really made these future PR professionals stand out was their attitudes, proactive natures, how they tackled assignments and how they meshed with their respective teams. No company should expect an intern to show up already proficient in the skills of the trade, but if a student is participating in an internship, it is assumed that they want to work in the industry and potentially at that company, so it is crucial that they prove how much they want to be there, that they are ready to learn and are prepared to work.
Full steam ahead into a full-time job …
In terms of what interns can do to help their hiring chances, here are the top 10 pieces of advice provided by our Coyne interns-turned-employees:
Go above and beyond: This guidance was shared by almost every employee. Interns are typically given a set of tasks to complete in any given day or week, but the students who stand out take initiative, ask for work or provide more than what was expressly asked of them.
In the words of former intern and current Account Executive Zach Hrubic, “Do what is expected of you and also what is unexpected of you – take initiative, go above and beyond and display your strengths.”
Ask questions: Another often repeated tidbit is that interns should ask questions. Employees see question-asking as having two functions: it helps to confirm assignment details to ensure efficiency and accuracy, but it can also reiterate a candidate’s interest by showing they want to know more about what goes into to success and are invested in doing a good job.
Five-year Coyne employee and Account Supervisor Colleen Imler shared, “Raise your hand and ask questions – that way the team knows that you are inquisitive and willing to learn.”
Let your personality shine and be friendly: An important factor in the hiring of and intern lies in how much the team likes or gets along with them. Interns should show their real personalities so the team can get to know them. Having a presence and being friendly to everyone at the company beyond just their immediate team helps to further leave an impression … plus one never knows who will be in charge of making a hiring decision.
As Assistant Vice President and member of the 2007 Coyne intern class, Chris Tamburino, puts it, “An internship allows potential employers to see how you handle the job in ‘real life’ and get a true understanding of your work ethic, passion for the industry, personality and, quite honestly, how you mesh with the team.”
Take ownership of work and understand the bigger picture: Intern work may not always seem extremely significant, but an interest in seeing how the work fits into the larger picture and benefits clients can help interns become more invested and gain a better understanding of the profession.
Senior Account Executive Katelyn Kwiatkowski who has worked at Coyne since her 2012 internship advises, “Ask to see the final results of your work. For example, if you started to draft a press release, ask to see the version that was distributed. If you wrote a pitch, ask how the outreach is going. We can tell when interns really want to learn and bring value versus just checking a box.”
Share ideas: Though office environments can be intimidating, interns have a unique perspective and a lot to contribute. Those who aren’t shy and offer ideas or suggestions will stand out both for being vocal and for wanting to add value.
Former Coyne intern and current Assistant Account Executive Chandler Smith shares, “I believe the most important thing is to speak up and share different ideas or thoughts for a client or on the way the team could operate. It’s always helpful to see things through a fresh perspective.”
Check in regularly: Recommends three-year Coyne employee, Account Executive Jill Perera, “Make it a point to check in with all of your supervisors at the beginning and end of each day … show them you can work efficiently.”
Without being annoying, interns should check in with their supervisors twice each day, at a minimum. Not only does a touch base allow interns to show their progress and offer up help, but it also makes it harder to be forgotten by a supervisor.
Express a desire to work at the company: It may seem obvious, but not every intern working at a company has a real interest in working there post-graduation. By stating how much an intern wants to build a future at a company, it will show that they are serious and dedicated.
Account Executive Sara Semple thinks this was key to her being hired out of her internship in 2015, “I made it clear to my supervisors that Coyne was where I wanted to be … I proved to them that I was eager to learn and grow here.”
Show passion and enjoyment: Passion is not something that can be faked and it may be hard to become genuinely invested in work that is only temporary, but if real enthusiasm is shown during an internship, it helps reinforce that the candidate should remain at the company and in the field. If the excitement doesn’t come naturally, it can be jump started with independent research to learn more about a client or their industry. If all else fails, asking the team what they love about a project may help to spark an intern’s interest.
Member of the 2016 intern class and current Account Executive, Danielle Wilk, shares, “Someone in an intern position should be vocal and show excitement when given a new task. I think showing that you are enthusiastic, willing to learn and open to accepting feedback is really important to succeeding in an intern role, and even in a career.”
Take notes: While the intangible factors of proactivity and passion seem to pull the most weight in determining if an intern gets hired, the candidate also has to produce quality work. One way an intern can help any team is by exhibiting attention to detail and taking thorough notes throughout their time at a company. Interns should carry a notebook with them at all times and when being assigned work, detailed notes should be taken and referenced so that the assignment is completed correctly and supervisor time isn’t being wasted having to reexplain or review numerous rounds of revisions.
Melissa Thompson, Account Supervisor and Coyne employee for six years, says, “Always take notes and USE them! It’s simple to listen to instructions, but it’s more beneficial to write them down so you’re able to revisit them later and ensure you’re submitting your best work and completing tasks correctly.”
Use it as your audition: While many interns simply check the box that allows them to put the experience on their resume, those who are serious about solidifying a spot on the company’s payroll will treat an internship as if it is an extended interview, putting their best foot forward and showing the best version of themselves throughout. Additionally, a student should approach an internship as they would a full-time position because team members only have the work and behavior displayed during an internship on which to judge the prospective employee.
Assistant Account Executive and 2015 intern Brianna Patrizio suggests, “Treat your internship like it is a full-time position and understand that your work matters. Interns at Coyne really do get hands-on experience that is meaningful to the team, so having the mentality that you are way more than ‘just an intern’ is crucial and is the truth!”
With students doing all of this to prove themselves, it is important that employers provide the best possible internship experience. Time should be devoted to teaching interns about the industry and how the tasks they are being assigned fit into the larger business picture. Interns should also be given a variety of tasks to try and provided with feedback they can learn from. With employers and interns both committing to making the experience as valuable as possible, they can sail off into the sunset together, knowing the foundation for a successful career has been set.
Special thanks to our interns-turned-employees for their words of wisdom!