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Here's How To Turn That Tech Internship Into a Full-Time Job

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When you’re beginning your professional life, it can be daunting to know what the “right” next step is. As ubiquitous as internships have become, they’re still somewhat shrouded in mystery when it comes to figuring out how to transition from an eight-to-twelve week internship to a full-time job.

So, now that you’ve landed the internship of your dreams, how do you keep the momentum going. We spoke to Molly Jones, Talent Operations Lead at Sprout Social, about the best steps interns can take to secure that full-time job offer. Sprout Social, which helps companies and individuals manage social media, is consistently ranked as one of the top places to work in Chicago. Here's what it takes to stand out from the crowd.

From a general HR perspective, what are some qualities in interns that make you think, “I’d like to bring this person back?”

I think initially we get feedback from the team. We want to hear that not only what their work quality is like, but what they are like to work with on a day-to-day basis. It's important for us to understand that, yes, this person creates good stuff, writes good code, but it's also really important that they are responsible, that they are able to take feedback and criticism, that they take the initiative.

Of course, we talk to their team first and gather feedback. All of our interns at Sprout Social are within Engineering, and they are embedded into all of our different Engineering teams, so getting that feedback [directly from the teams] is important.

What are some things that interns can be doing throughout their internship to secure a job at the end?

At the beginning of their internship, [the interns] need to set some goals for themselves with either their mentor or their manager. Continuous check-ins are hugely important. I can't say the word "feedback" enough. Getting it daily, weekly, bi-weekly, what have you— just to have a pulse on how they're doing and how they can continue to get better and grow.

[An intern] is generally a young person and new to the professional workforce, so taking that feedback and not considering it as anything but helpful, and taking that information and moving and growing forward is hugely important.

Throughout the summer, [a good step is for the interns to make] constant requests for feedback, but it's also on the mentors and the managers to give them feedback— both positive so they know what to do more of, as well as critical or forward-thinking feedback for stuff they can do better.

Then, they can continue to stay curious about the entire company. Generally, they are an intern for a particular department, for a particular team, but it's always good to understand the company on a holistic level. It's a really interesting quality when interns are curious because they're not just interested, involved, and engaged in the work that they are doing, but they are also interested in the organization as a whole.

For interns who are interested in making themselves known and remembered, should they touch base with you throughout the year, for example in the winter, or is that annoying?

If they are coming into their Senior year of college especially, that's when the full-time offers happen, and generally, companies will extend full-time offers to interns within a month to six weeks max of an intern finishing their summer internship.

It happens pretty soon after and that's for a couple reasons. Number one: while both the intern and the company are feeling strongly about each other, you want to extend the offer because it's when they are most likely to accept. Number two: competition. Interns who are going into their Senior year start looking for jobs at the beginning of the school year. They want to know that when they graduate, they have a position. There is so much competition out there, especially for engineering candidates, that we want to scoop them up as soon as we can.

Otherwise, advice to interns during that period of time or even at the end of their internship: thank the people for their time and their energy. Generally, mentors and managers of interns also have full-time jobs and need to do their own thing and write their own code and manage other people, and so it's it's kind of a volunteer job to keep up with your work and also oversee an intern, so it's important to make sure you've expressed gratitude to those who've helped you through the summer. That leaves a really nice taste in everyone's mouth. Showing the people you've worked with or the people on the talent side, like me, that you've enjoyed your summer, you got a lot out of it, and you're looking forward to a potential future at the company.

Should people be looking for a job at the company they interned for or should they be considering their internship just an opportunity for experience?

On the employer side, the biggest reason that we have interns is so we can bring them on full-time. We've seen a couple different cases of folks that come back or folks that try other companies upon graduation. Maybe they have ties to the West Coast, and so they want to stay out there. So from the intern's perspective, I have seen both sides. From the employer's perspective, it is absolutely preferred that the intern returns to us if there is an offer because that is the purpose of most internship programs, but it doesn't necessarily always shake out that way.

Finally, on that note, let’s talk resumes a little bit. How should interns highlight the skills they learned during their internship? What are you looking for on the resume of a recent college grad?

Most specifically, I want to know about the projects that you worked on, but make sure that the skills you mention are universal from company to company. The words that one organization uses might be very different from another, so make sure that they are broad and digestible to all the different organizations.

Make sure you use action words. Those are huge. I want to know exactly what you did. Don't start bullet points with, "Was on a small engineering team." Instead try, "Wrote JavaScript code that yielded the Instagram Integration... etc, etc." Use specific action words and mention specific project but that are universally digestible.

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