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What specific skills and qualities do employers look for when determining whether to hire you full-time?
First and foremost, they want to see if you are able to accomplish the tasks put in front of you. Beyond that, they want to determine if you fit with the company. Do you interact well with colleagues and managers, and understand the company’s culture?
For example, in a culture where there is a lot of collaboration and you are not a team player, you are giving a signal that you do not understand how things work. If everyone goes to lunch once a week as a group and you decline because you are focusing on a task, then that is another signal.
Ask yourself: are you paying attention to the norms of the company?
Is networking important for an intern?
Networking is a critical part of what is, in essence, an eight or 10-week interview. It is through building relationships over time that you have the opportunity to get to know people and learn from them, as well as let them get to know you. This is a chance for them to see the value you bring to the organisation. This is important because hiring decisions are rarely made by one person alone. It is common for companies to ask for feedback from several people to determine if you will receive an offer.
If you are operating in a silo, how do you network effectively within the company?
You will need to make deliberate attempts to reach out beyond your department to connect with more people. You might want to ask your manager for assistance in meeting others at the company to help you better understand the organisation. If any social events are held, definitely attend those. And absolutely contact alumni from your school and previous interns within the company because these individuals will generally be happy to talk to you, help you understand the culture, and guide you in meeting others.
How do you solicit feedback to ensure you are on track?
This is straightforward at organisations with a clear process for providing feedback. However, if they do not systematically do this, talk to your manager within the first week. Explain that you want to get as much out of the experience as possible and would like to receive feedback throughout the summer. You can ask to set up times after key events, such as the completion of major projects.
How do you turn around an internship if you receive negative feedback?
First, thank your manager for giving the feedback. Second, determine with the appropriate people what you need to do to improve.
If it is significant feedback — for example, you are not being effective enough in what you are doing — talk to your manager about how best to both address the problem and measure improvements in your performance.
After making the recommended changes, check back with your manager to ensure you are making steady progress. Listen to constructive criticism with an open mind and maintain a positive attitude.
However, if you are still at a loss after talking to your manager, then talk to someone outside the organisation. Your school’s career development office is also a good resource. They may be able to give you additional thoughts on your manager’s perspective or suggest who best to reach out to in the company.
What steps can you take if you are not assigned enough work?
At this point in your career, the expectation is that you will look around the company and see what can be improved upon, automated, redesigned, or invented. Ask colleagues how you can help them.
Do not be afraid to let people know that you need more work. Your manager may simply be too busy and lack the bandwidth to give you more projects. When you are in this situation, do not come in late, complain or act bored. Take the initiative, pay attention and understand what is needed. Go to your manager with your project ideas and ensure he/she supports your proposed initiative. Then you have truly added value.
If no job offer comes up at the end of the internship, what should you do?
Once again, this would be a time to remain gracious and positive. Demonstrate that you are a professional. Send a thank you email to the individuals you worked closely with or those who helped you during your internship. In a company where there is an opportunity to pursue another job, discuss why you are excited about the organisation, what you can contribute and that you will keep in touch.
Sue Kline is the co-senior director of the MIT Sloan School of Management career development office in the US