There are a number of reasons to take a post-grad internship: specific agency, certain city, more skills in a niche PR industry, test out a new area of PR, no solid job offers, and the list goes on. For me, I interned a handful of times in college and taking on one last internship during my post-grad was my foot into the door of a large agency in a city I love, Chicago.
Here some tips I learned before, during and after, that helped turn my post-grad internship into a full-time job.
BEFORE You Apply/Accept:
- Narrow your search. Whether you want more experience in a certain industry, to work at a certain company or in a specific city, narrow it down and only apply to places you can see yourself working full-time.
- PRSA and LinkedIn are your best friends. Use them to find, research and apply for opportunities.
- Look for paid opportunities. At this point, you probably already had one or two unpaid internships (which is more than enough). So don’t take another one.
- Ask their hiring rate. During the interview, ask them how many interns they have hired recently. If it’s a summer internship program where they have 20+ at one time, the hiring rate might not be as high. But if they hire on need base (when they have new business/client work), there’s a better shot they are looking for an intern to eventually hire full-time.
- Ask about their environment & professional development. Make sure it’s a place you’d like to continue to work if you were hired on full-time.
- Ask questions like: do you have events where employees can get involved and get to know each other outside of work? Does the company encourage trainings, workshops, industry events and professional groups inside and outside of the office?
- Be prepared and set expectations beforehand. You’re transitioning from post-grad and need to be thinking long-term. Ask yourself if you don’t get hired full-time, what’s your next step? If you do get hired, will you want to work there? For how long?
DURING Your Internship/Freelance:
- Join PRSA. Even as an intern you can join PRSA. As a post-grad, you can use it to not only network in your area, but also discover additional opportunities and build your resume.
- Act at the level you want to be hired for. Yes, you’re an intern, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take on more responsibility. Make sure to show them that if they could, they would hire you on the spot.
- Ask for feedback. As an intern, there may or may not be a formal review process. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t check with your team on a regular basis and ask for ways to improve. Set personal goals and communicate them with your boss. This shows how serious you are about what you can learn from the company as well as provide the team.
- Touch base about two-three weeks before your deadline approaches. Along with your reviews, you want to make sure you’re on the right track to hopefully getting hired. Sit down and meet with your boss to talk over your next steps: if they foresee a full-time position opening up, if there is a possibility it will be extended or if your position will come to an end with the contract. Sometimes they don’t have all the answers – it could depend on budgets with the client or company. Either way, you won’t know until you ask them.
- Network: Inside and outside of work. Seek out co-workers who you’d like to learn from, grab a drink with an old classmate, or meet for coffee with a fellow PRSA member. Constantly continue to expand your network. The more people know you and the more experiences you have, the greater opportunity you will have to discover your next position.
To find more tips on networking, check out an earlier blog post here.
- Keep resume updated. Halfway through your internship, begin researching and applying for other jobs. If you have an interview somewhere else, take it and be upfront with your boss about it. The bottom line is that you need to get hired. Your boss understands that. Not only is interviewing at other places helping you line up additional opportunities, but it also shows your boss how serious you are about full-time position.
- If your position is extended, don’t worry. This means they want to hire you full-time, but can’t right now. Take this time to re-evaluate where you really want to work: is at this company or somewhere else? If you take the extension, make sure to continue asking for feedback, touching base, networking and applying for other positions in the meantime.
AFTER: You’ve got the job offer, now what?
- Negotiating the contract. If you can, ask fellow co-workers you trust about their salary when they were interns and offered a full-time position. When you’re given the contract, take it home and read through every detail. Look for all it includes: responsibilities, salary, insurance and other perks such as compensations for a phone, gym membership, professional development, etc. When negotiating, make sure to talk about all the work you’ve completed and if you’re asking for an increase, give a range or a few options and reasons for why you believe you deserve more (for example, between 3-5K more because of X or PRSA membership compensated because X).
- Check all other opportunities. If you were pursuing other jobs and in the middle of other interviews, decide what’s best for your career move. Creating a pro vs. con list and talking with your mentors are always helpful.
Finally: Find that work/life balance. As an intern, you weren’t expected to work more than 40 hours a week. As a full-time employee, it doesn’t always work that way. Just make sure to strive for a work/life balance. You’re expected to meet deadlines, but you also need to enjoy yourself.