With just 16.6% of seniors having received a job offer as of April 15, the paid internship is more important than ever before. According to a recent study conducted by InternMatch, students with paid internships are three times more likely to have job offers than students with unpaid internships. Of course, this means that there’s a very good chance you’re a recently-graduated senior who is doing an internship in the hopes it will lead to a full-time position. This also means you’re sniffing out any potential sign of how you’re doing. In hopes of uncovering some signs I may have missed, I asked some of my previous internship managers and bosses what changes occur when their intern is doing a particularly good job.
1. You are asked to take on more responsibility.
One of the toughest nuts for me to crack was a boss I had in college, who interviewed me with such a stony look on her face that I was sure she hated me. Of course, she is a lovely person and we now have a great rapport; she’s just no nonsense. At the outset of my internship I was walking on eggshells a bit. When bosses aren’t the type to pat your on the back every five minutes, you can still get a sense of how you’re doing by the quality and quantity of projects you’re given. Added work that is meaningful and forcing you to stay late? Awesome. (That said, don’t just sit around and wait for assignments. Go find a problem and solve it.)
2. Your boss starts introducing you to people.
Colleagues, upper management, clients, friends, anyone that belongs to the almighty Human Resources department…if you’re getting any of these introductions then good for you my friend. Your boss doesn’t hate you! Appreciate it, and for Pete’s sake take advantage. Follow up with people, make the connection, show your boss you’re worth it.
3. Your boss takes you to a social/networking event.
Last summer at Hachette, my boss invited me to an advertising/publishing mixer with The Wall Street Journal, and I was completely thrilled. At the very least, I knew she wasn’t embarrassed by me. Of course this is also something of a test—how well can you hold your own at a networking cocktail party (roomful of strangers)? That’s a different article entirely. In any case I must have passed, because it was the beginning of what remains a fantastic relationship. She even cited the night several weeks later, mentioning the importance of being able to shine in social situations.
4. They ease up on proofreading.
I’ve found this in all of my internships where writing was involved, but it applies across the board, and it can be a dangerous game. At the beginning, you know your boss is checking everything you do with a microscope, so you do it perfectly. Once you do it perfectly enough times, that microscope gets put back in the drawer. This ostensibly eases the pressure, but it also means you don’t have that steely second line of defense. Never let your boss’ trust make you lax.
5. You and your boss have an inside joke about something.
I got this one from the insanely hilarious Jenni Maier, Editor-in-Chief of Crushable.com. Working for Jenni, the inside jokes could have been any number of things, one of my favorites being incompetent PR people who would send her political pitches for a celebrity entertainment website. Makes perfect sense, right? If you and your boss are joking about something—anything—you’ve got the good vibes rolling.
6. Your boss asks how your weekend was and actually listens.
Another tip-off from Jenni Maier: I never would have thought of this one, but it’s absolutely true. Any good boss who sees your value as an employee will make at least a minimal effort to get to know you. If he or she is taking minutes out of the morning to chat with you, things are looking good. That said, don’t yammer on into their morning meeting.
7. You’re asked for your opinion in a meeting.
After just sitting in to listen for weeks, someone turns to you and says, “What do you think about this?” This is a great sign, and also a test. Take the opportunity to show you’ve been present, listening, and brainstorming all this time. Under no circumstances should you utter the phrase “I don’t know.”
If you’re feeling any of these good vibes, pat yourself on the back. Now get back to work! Don’t let your boss’ approval make you take your foot off the pedal. Take it as a sign to keep doing what you’re doing, and start reaching for some bigger projects. Keep it up and you’ll be turning that internship into a full-time position.