While he was in college, Drew Mitchell heard from all of his professors that an internship was the key to a career. So, the Western Kentucky University public relations and political science major knew he couldn’t settle for any summer job — he needed the right summer job. “I was definitely looking for something that would help propel my career,” Mitchell said. And that’s what he found.
He landed an eight-week internship at one of Kentucky’s largest public relations firms, Guthrie/Mayes, during the summer of 2012. “I wanted to make the most of my internship, so I dug my heels in as much as I could and got to work,” he said. And the work he did impressed his supervisors enough to offer him a job in March 2013 — before he had even finished his senior year of college.
Mitchell started working two days after he graduated in May 2013 and stayed with Guthrie/Mayes for one year until he was recruited to work in the New York office of Edelman, the world’s largest PR firm. He hasn’t quite reached the six-figure salary level yet, but Mitchell said he’s getting “closer every day.” And it’s all thanks to a summer job that launched his full-time career in public relations.
Finding the Right Summer Job
It’s not uncommon for a summer job or internship to lead to a full-time position. The majority of employers surveyed by the National Association of College and Employers said that the focus of their internship and co-op programs was to convert students into full-time employees. And the survey found that in 2015, more than half of the eligible interns did accept full-time positions with employers where they interned.
“Your best chance of getting a job is with your summer employer, “ said Connie Thanasoulis-Cerrachio, co-founder and career coach at SixFigureStart, which provides career advice and job market insights. That’s why it’s so important to find the right summer position.
There are several resources you can use to find a summer internship or job. Make sure, though, that you narrow your job search to programs and jobs in a field or industry you care about — not just any position. If you get the job, it will help you determine whether it’s the right career for you, said Thanasoulis-Cerrachio.
1. Take advantage of your university’s career services office.
Start your job search at your school’s career services office, Thanasoulis-Cerrachio advised. After all, these offices exist to help students get jobs. And, many large companies work closely with university career services offices to recruit students. Maximize this resource.
2. Talk to your network.
Reach out to professors, friends and family, leaders in your religious organization or community, people you’ve volunteered with and even people you went to high school with to see if they can help you with your job search. Just taking the time to talk to people you know to find out what their careers are or who they know in the field that you’re interested in can open doors.
“The only way you’re going to find out about these people is to ask them questions,” said Thanasoulis-Cerrachio. You will likely find that it’s easy because most people like to talk about themselves, she added.
3. Do research online.
In addition to using your school’s career services office and tapping into your network — or if these two sources don’t generate any leads — use the internet to find openings. Thanasoulis-Cerrachio recommends job-seeker website Vault.com to search for internships, research companies and get career advice. Wetfeet.com is also another good resource for career advice and information about employers. You also can do a basic internet search using the keywords “internship,” “summer job” and the company, industry or city where you’re interested working.
6 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Summer Job
So if you get the summer job you want and it’s a career you want to pursue, how do you turn it into a full-time position? “That’s the $100,000 question,” Thanasoulis-Cerrachio said. Here are a few ways you achieve this:
1. Treat it like a real job.
Don’t approach your summer position as if it’s only a temporary job. From the start, find out what your responsibilities are, what is expected of you and how your job impacts the company’s bottom line. “Have clarity on your role and knock it out of the park,” Thanasoulis-Cerrachio said.
For example, even if you’re filling out what might seem link a minor report for a manager, find out why it’s important. Sometimes, even the smallest job responsibilities can stop everything if not done properly.
2. Say “yes” to projects.
Mitchell said he never said “no” to projects and was willing to accept all the little things that no one wanted to do. “I took those little tasks and turned them into bigger projects,” he said. “I instilled enough confidence in my employers that I was able to take on larger tasks.”
3. Ask questions appropriately.
“Don’t just sit there like a lump on the log and do your work,” said Thanasoulis-Cerrachio. Ask relevant questions that show that you care about what you’re doing and how the company is doing. And ask your supervisors and colleagues why they chose the industry they’re in, how they got their start with the company and what they like about their jobs.
Asking the appropriate questions can signal that you care about the people around you and that you’re enthusiastic about your job. Thanasoulis-Cerrachio said that when she was in charge of recruiting at Merrill Lynch, candidates who were qualified but not enthusiastic were bypassed in favor of those who showed more enthusiasm for the job.
4. Go the extra mile.
“Why? You’ve got to constantly prove you’re worthy because so many other people are a LinkedIn click away,” said Mitchell. To get noticed and a full-time job offer, you need to do things such as coming in early and staying late, Thanasoulis-Cerrachio said.
5. Monitor your performance.
Find out what you’ll be rated on during your internship when you start working and whether there will be a formal performance review before you leave, Thanasoulis-Cerrachio said. Knowing this information will help you keep tabs on your performance so you’ll know if you’re on track to getting a good review when you leave. Be open to feedback during your review, and don’t be afraid to let the employer know that you want to return to work full time — if you that’s what you want, of course.
Even if it turns out that your summer job isn’t the one you want full time, you need to have an understanding of what you did and why so that you can describe your responsibilities on your résumé and during interviews for full-time jobs.
6. Stay in touch with your supervisors and co-workers.
Thank your manager and co-workers for the opportunity when your internship or summer job ends, and let them know that you’ll stay in touch. Then, follow through on your promise with e-mails thanking them again, updating them on what you’re working on and letting them know that you’re interested in them and the company. “That’s what it takes,” Mitchell said. “You have to let people know you want a job.”
Keep reading: 6 Best Things to Do With Summer Job Savings
But don’t let that summer job be your only opportunity for full-time employment, Thanasoulis-Cerrachio said. Continue to network, keep researching openings in your field and ask your school friends about their summer jobs and opportunities in case you don’t get an offer after your summer job or internship is over.