July 31, 2021
First jobs for college students can be very difficult to secure, and internship or volunteer experience oftentimes provides a needed bridge to help students secure their first jobs after graduation. With just a few weeks left in summer, most internship or volunteer experiences are likely ending somewhat soon – what can college students do to secure a full-time job offer soon?
Here are the five best steps Gen Z’ers can take to make themselves competitive candidates for their post-graduation job search.
An internship or volunteer experience can serve as an audition for a full-time job, and interns should do everything they can to proactively make a positive impression on management. Wherever possible, go the extra mile and provide exceptional deliverables. Complete projects thoroughly, without mistakes, on-time or ahead of schedule.
Do not wait to the end of your internship to seek feedback – invest time in both self-reflection and asking others how you are doing. Check-in with your supervisor in between due dates to help ensure you are on the right track; and try to take actionable steps to improve yourself and your performance based on this information.
If you identify an emerging problem, alert your manager and provide ideas for solutions. Understand what hard skills full-time employees have, as well as leverage any downtime you have to focus on developing these skills. Ask if you can shadow other colleagues to learn about work occurring outside of your current role.
Throughout your internship, take note of your accomplishments along the way – this helps summarize your experience at the end of summer as you request a job, arms you with new insights for both your refreshed resume and LinkedIn profile, and can help lead to a reference from a current colleague.
An internship provides more than work experience – it is an opportunity to develop valuable connections. This can accelerate the job search for new graduates. Get to know fellow interns and other colleagues – remember, culture fit is a consideration for employers. Prioritize building relationships, making yourself known, and fitting in with the larger team and culture. Come in early (or log in early if working remotely) to spend time more casually conversing with colleagues before the workday starts. Seek to find common interests with colleagues, and try to participate in non-work, interest-based activities together – maybe you can join a company softball team (or similar virtual activity), participate in a volunteer initiative, or attend an office happy hour (including virtual).
Make sure your bubble expands beyond your immediate supervisor and team – try to meet people across departments who can inform you about the company and their roles. These connections might act as internal advocates for you within this company, help you discover a new career path, or assist you in a future position. Be sure to connect with everyone on LinkedIn after getting their permission and try to engage with others’ posts to stay in touch – remember, networking is an ongoing practice and you get what you give. Do not be afraid to ask for references, or to ask a colleague if they would post a recommendation on LinkedIn.
Invest yourself fully in your organization and its success. Focus not just on your role, but the larger company and industry. Ask questions and seek to answer them – what major changes are on the horizon, and what challenges does your team face in helping fulfill their mission within the larger organization?
Comport yourself like a full-time employee invested in the organization’s ongoing success, even if your internship is part-time. If you demonstrate this interest, you may be given more meaningful work to do, and have opportunities to build more trust with your team.
Be curious (a very important soft skill that all employers seek); ask inquisitive questions about the goals and needs of the team. Position yourself to make an impact by arriving early and staying late to finish time-sensitive tasks, be willing to voice your opinion if you can offer a unique perspective.
One way to leave your mark is to facilitate an effective transition for when your position culminates. This includes both ensuring your colleagues can pick up your projects smoothly, and to help facilitate an easy transition for next year’s interns.
Proactively schedule time with your teammates to discuss hand-offs. Clearly articulate what has been completed, and what remains to be finished. Additionally, create a manual for your position, or help enhance an existing one, so that future interns are well prepared to succeed in your position. Include tasks and processes that you found helpful, emphasizing those you implemented to facilitate your job. Your colleagues and supervisors will remember and appreciate steps you took to make their jobs easier following the end of your internship.
Do not be coy, and do not assume that those at your company know you are seeking a full-time role. Actively express your interest in a full-time position with the company, especially to your supervisor or whomever else you have connected with who may be involved in hiring.
You may be asked to undergo interviewing again before you leave, which is a great sign. Before you interview, think about every entry level option so that you can discuss all of them. The company may have different programs or departments and you should be flexible about your willingness to work in different entry-level roles.
Showcase what you have learned and accomplished in your internship role, and finish the meeting with a strong closing, again stating your explicit interest. If the company doesn’t make offers many months in advance, ask what the appropriate timing would be to be considered for entry level roles.
Inquire to see if your company needs additional help, and if you can continue working on a part-time basis after you return to school, either in-person or remotely. Even if this does not fit within the company’s needs, this initiative will demonstrate your interest and commitment to the organization’s mission.
College students who are currently pursuing internships or volunteer experiences are at the very start of their professional careers and are on track to get hired after college graduation into their first jobs after graduation. By following these steps, you can become a compelling candidate for employment and use your internship or volunteer experience to launch your career after college.