NEW YORK (MainStreet) — College students are immersed in their internships. And while some positions might be "just a job" for the summer, others might be the job you've been dreaming of. So if you think you've found the place you want to work after the summer is over, how do you convert your summer internship into your dream job? We talked to top hiring professionals to find out what it takes to stand out from the pack.
Have a Mentor
Kathy Harris, managing director of Harris Allied, says that a mentor can be crucial in helping to turn your internship into your dream job.
"My advice is that your mentor work for the company where you're interning, rather than a student advisor at school," she says. That might be your direct manager, someone at HR who manages the internship program or someone within your department that you trust. Finding someone who went to your school can be an added bonus -- it gives you something to connect over.
Once you've identified your mentor, Harris advises you to reach out and ask him to have coffee. When you're there, you want to explain that you're trying to get as much out of your internship as is possible and that you want a mentor. After that, meet for coffee every couple of weeks or so. You don't want to ask the to meet more than that, says Harris, because it could seem like you're asking them to take on a whole other job. But especially if it's the person in charge of the internship program, he might be willing to work as your mentor and then get feedback on the internship program at large.
Harris points out that your mentor doesn't necessarily have to be a formal mentor. But she does recommend that you have a mentor-like relationship with someone senior in the company. "Let them know that you're interested in working for the company after the internship is over," Harris says. This is especially important if your mentor is someone in a supervisor or hiring capacity.
Treat It Like a Real Job...
"People need to treat their internship like it's a real job," says Harris. More than anything else, that means showing up on time and dressing appropriately. She advises that you try to strike a balance between being a part of the internship group and standing out from that group. "That balance can be very tricky," she admits. But a lot of it comes down to acting like an adult when other people aren't.
Another thing that interns need to be doing is looking for ways to add value all the time. "Do more than the bare minimum," says Harris.
Even if you work in a casual work environment -- an increasingly common phenomenon, especially in digital -- don't assume that there are casual expectations. "Don't mistake beer in the fridge for a place where expectations are lower," she says. "Even startups have deadlines that need to be met."
Amy Glaser, vice president of Adecco Staffing, advises that you do this by volunteering. "Going above and beyond and offering to take things to the next level really helps you to stand out," she says. That's one of the best ways you can treat this like a true career. And when you sit down with your mentor, if you have one, you can specifically ask how you're going above and beyond and exceeding expectations.
Network on the Job...
"One of the most important parts is just networking," says Glaser. She advises that you meet as many people in as many departments as you possibly can. Even if you leave the company without a job, for example to go back to school, you'll have roots in the company that might make it easier to get a position there when your education is over. This is why it's important to add people on LinkedIn and to nurture those relationships.
Harris agrees. "Someone who wants to transition should meet with as many people as they can," she says. "There are limited spots for jobs after graduation." What's more, hiring is, more often than not, done by a team of people these days. Meeting as many people as you can makes it more likely that you're going to have people on those hiring committees who know you and are at least passingly familiar with your work. "If there's an opportunity to participate in meetings or sit in with groups, you want to participate," she says. "That makes a really positive first impression."
Ask the Right Questions...
Whether you have a formal mentor or not, Glaser says you shouldn't ask questions just for the sake of asking them. Instead, you should ask questions that show that you've done your homework. "It's important to take ownership and do some research on the front end," Glaser says. That means starting with asking your peers questions, especially when they've been there longer than you. After that, it's time to start talking to the more junior members of your staff. "Showing enthusiasm with the questions you ask will have them wanting to stop and give you some knowledge," she says.
Remember that the people you're asking questions of are busy with their own work. They might not want to answer basic questions for the 500th time. But they might be inclined to help you out when you come to them with questions that sound like you've done your homework.