You've got it all: projects you’re passionate about, a manager who supports your career growth, an office culture you can buy into, and coworkers you love working with every day.
And then the internship ends.
When you’re lucky enough to land an internship with substantive work that’s pushing you to learn and grow every day, it can be difficult to say goodbye when the semester or summer comes to an end. But what if you could leverage that experience to land a permanent, full-time role after graduation?
Yes, it can be done.
Several weeks into my second summer internship on HubSpot’s marketing team, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that this was where I wanted to start my post-grad career. But there were only a few spots open in the program I wanted to join, and I knew I’d really need to set myself apart in order to earn that offer letter.
I’m ecstatic to say that all of my hard work paid off and I left the bright orange halls of HubSpot this summer with a signed offer in my hand.
Now I want to share with you my top tips for turning your internship into a full-time job so that you, too, can relish in that same sense of job security and excitement for the future as you head back to school.
Step 1: Give 110% at your internship.
It sounds basic, but doing your job (well) is the most important move you can make when it comes to securing a full-time position. Faced with a short window of time, many interns get caught in the adjustment phase for the first month of a two-to-three month internship. Others spend so much time with other interns that by the time they return to their desks after a two-hour lunch, the afternoon has slipped away.
The company you’re interning at hired you because they believed you were capable of completing the projects they set out for you -- don’t prove them wrong. Granted, some tasks take far longer than we anticipate, even when we’re as focused as possible. If you’ve been assigned work that you just can’t complete before the deadline, let your manager know early and share updates on your progress. They will appreciate your transparency and help you work through any issues efficiently. It’ll also keep you accountable to getting the work done since you’ll want to go to meetings with your manager having made progress.
Think of your internship as a prolonged job interview -- your company is getting a trial run of all the skills you listed on your resumé and a front-row seat to see how quickly you can pick up new concepts.
Step 2: Net(work).
Some successful businesspeople will tell you that the key to getting a job is utilizing your network. Some say that your work should speak for itself. In my opinion, if you’re looking to get hired after an internship, you really should have both.
When you’re already at the company where you want to end up, you have the advantage of being able to showcase your skills and work ethic to those who have a say in hiring you.
Chat with people from a wide range of departments over coffee and ask specific questions about their responsibilities and projects. Questions like, “how did you get to XYZ company?” and “what’s your favorite part of your job?” are good questions to break the ice, but if you really want to make a good impression, you should ask deeper, more thoughtful questions. Shamelessly stalking LinkedIn profiles (you can switch your viewing mode to Private!) will make the conversation far more fruitful for both parties and will also show-off your resourcefulness.
To seal the deal, if someone’s working on a project that you’re interested in or you feel you could contribute to, be sure to extend a hand in a follow-up email. You’ll build up your skill set while simultaneously adding to a group of strong internal advocates who can speak directly to your work -- not just repeat hearsay.
During my summer internship, for example, I offered to edit guest blogs, check-in guests at events, and lend an extra set of eyes to look over speech outlines.
A word of caution: always make sure you follow through on the promises you make. If you’re juggling too many tasks and start to let your assigned responsibilities or extra work slip through the cracks, your outreach will have the opposite effect -- people will become skeptical of your accountability.
By working with a couple of people who aren’t on your direct team, you’ll have plenty of colleagues advocating for you when you do apply for a full-time position.
Step 3: Figure out which position you’re most interested in.
There’s a chance that the department you’re interning for may not hire recent graduates. If you love the company and the people, try dipping your toes into another area of work after graduation.
Ask if you can shadow someone in a department that’s piquing your interest. For example, if you’d like to go into sales, see if you can listen-in on a preliminary call with a prospective client. If you’re looking into product management, ask if you can watch a roadmap meeting. But, always do your research before you shadow in a new department. Let’s take the product management example - you should know before you shadow what the team’s main goals are, how the team is structured, and what product they work on.
Hearing from people who are living and breathing the role you want will give you a clear picture of what working on that team would be like.
Step 4: Express your interest in the position.
This is absolutely crucial, and it’s a step that many interns either don’t know or are too afraid to do. There’s no one right way to say it; it varies based on your industry and company. But you can't expect that a job offer will fall in your lap if you never tell anyone that you want one.
At HubSpot, transparency is a key company value. I’d heard from employees that it was best to express interest in a full-time position early, so I first mentioned my interest about halfway through my internship.
If you’re nervous about talking with your boss or a recruiter about full-time employment, seek out a recent college graduate who can give you company-specific tips on approaching the conversation.
When you do speak with your manager or the recruiter, take a proactive approach. Share that you’re interested in the position and, importantly, ask what you can do to prepare for the application process.
Here’s a snippet from an email I sent to my program’s recruiter even before the official application opened:
“I’ve spoken with several members of this year’s cohort of the Leadership Rotational Program, and each conversation makes me even more excited to apply. I want to make sure that I’m putting my best foot forward. Do you have any tips on how I could best prepare for the application process in the remaining weeks of my internship?”
By asking what you can do, you’ll show that you’re committed to becoming the best applicant and employee you can be.
Step 5: Nail the interview by using internal resources.
As an intern, you have a major upper hand when it comes to interview prep, but you will also be expected to know more than the average applicant about the role and the company’s values and strategy.
Make sure to comb through all of the information at your disposal. For example, when I applied, I made sure to read all of the recent strategic posts on HubSpot’s internal corporate wiki, the website pages for each of my interviewers’ teams, and the posts associated with the program I wanted to join.
While not every company has an internal wiki, we all have coworkers we can lean on. You can meet with employees who work underneath the people who will be interviewing you to find out their priorities and pain points. If you’ve shadowed teams, you’ll hopefully have notes on the main takeaways, giving you insight into the topics each team thinks about. And finally, shameless internet searching will come in clutch.
In my opinion, the key to leaving a lasting impression is asking remarkably specific questions based on your research. Don’t be afraid to ask about something you found on your interviewer’s LinkedIn profile or saw on another internal resource for fear of seeming “too interested” or just creepy. In the context of an interview, this extra information just shows that you’ve done your research.
Lastly, as with any interview, never forget to send a genuine and personalized follow-up email.
Turning your internship into a full-time job requires you to use every resource at your disposal. In addition to finishing and acing your assignments to the best of your ability during your internship, leverage every source of information you can to personalize each interaction you have so that you can nail the interview and land that post-grad job.
Originally published Oct 20, 2017 9:00:00 AM, updated January 19 2023