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Top 10 Tips to Excel on the Job as an Intern (and Get Hired Permanently)

So you’ve done it. You’ve got the internship. Ready to pop the champagne?

Not so fast. Given you’re about to spend a huge chunk of your life contributing your skills to a workplace that may or may not financially reward you, you’ll want to make sure it’s worth your while in the long run.

The best way to do this is to develop a clear roadmap towards where you’re going and where you want to be. Following these essential tips will give you the best chance possible at getting hired (so that your internship ends with a…well, non-ending.)

  1. Just ask how

Too many interns bumble along, hoping their efforts will be noticed and duly rewarded. However, if you don’t ask how to get hired, you won’t know. What’s more, you won’t feel clarity that you’re even on the right path.

So ask your manager the following question:

“What would it take to perform at the highest level in this role?”

Sound cheesy? Maybe so. But if you were in the manager’s shoes, you’d be hiring the person who was hungry from the beginning and showed initiative.

Asking this question will also help you understand how to create the most value from the manager’s perspective – the one opinion that truly counts.

  • Dress to impress

Nobody’s asking that you splash hundreds on a designer suit or wear shoes that give you blisters at the end of the day. But how you dress says a lot about how seriously you take your internship. Integrate seamlessly into your company’s culture through respecting the dress code.

Your manager will better imagine you as a permanent staff member and you’ll make a great first impression on everyone you meet.

  • Be conscientious

Arrive on time. Bring a notepad and pen to meetings. Remember critical dates and deadlines. Ask questions that are relevant to getting you to a place of high performance. And always make sure you have clarity on what’s expected of you.

Conscientiousness shows that you’re bright, observant and adept at following systems and processes. 

And this shouldn’t be said but I’ll say it anyway: don’t get drunk at the Christmas party.

  • Lend extra skills.

Though your job description may specify 4, if you can do 7, why not?

Now, be careful here. Going above and beyond is a strategy that necessitates a fine balance. Some managers may find overachievers grating. Others may be overjoyed at an extra pair of helping hands.

Navigate this strategy through careful discernment. Is what you’re offering really going to benefit the company and make your manager’s life easier? Or are you stepping on someone else’s toes to gratify your own ego?

If you see a need, let your boss know that you have the skill. But then let the boss take it from there.

  • Understand the greater vision

If you understand what your manager is trying to do, you can orientate your work to make your manager’s dream come true (and potentially, your own.)

And think about it from your manager’s point of view…

There’s nothing like knowing your employees understand your vision and they’re here to support you. An internship is your first opportunity to create a lasting relationship with high-level management.

Make it count. Ask questions. Be someone who can be relied on to make dreams a reality.

  • Be friendly

At the end of your internship, your boss may consult your colleagues in making a decision on whether to hire you on permanently or not.

If you’ve related well to your colleagues and established yourself as a good fit within team culture, you’ll be well-placed to get glowing recommendations.

People will remember your character just as much as they’ll remember your work.

So collaborate and be friendly with others. Make allies and positive relationships in the workplace. You never know just how well these relationships will serve you in the future.

  • Don’t be afraid to share fresh ideas

One of the first things you’ll notice when you join a company for the first time is problems.

Maybe the workflow process could be a little more efficient or the customer resolution script could be more tactful.

If you notice potential solutions to key issues, let a supervisor know. More than likely, they’ll be glad to get some fresh ideas on the table – and they’ll remember you as someone who cared enough to suggest something.

Following a position description will keep you out of trouble. But solving problems will make you an indispensable asset. And that’s what will eventually get you hired.

  • Take feedback (and action it)

There will be times perhaps where your ideas aren’t received so well, or that your performance is critiqued.

Don’t get upset and don’t take the advice personally. Instead, see this conversation as a stepping stone to getting better at your job.

The more sensitively you listen to feedback (and the faster you use it to upgrade your performance), the more impressed your company will be.

Anyone can be perfect from the beginning. But someone who grows is someone who shows capacity to grow with the company.

And in today’s unpredictable environment, that quality is priceless. Leverage it.

  • Seek to understand the business holistically.

Run into Richard the Sales Manage at lunch? Ask him how his division is going.

The more you understand about different departments within the company, the better you’ll be able to connect dots and understand your business from your CEO’s point of view.

While an internship is generally designed to upskill you in a niche area of business, it can’t hurt to develop a thorough comprehension of how your company is performing.

Having a deep knowledge of your business and industry developments will establish you as a key player in future operations (and increase the likelihood you talk sense in meetings – and eventually get hired!)

  1. Be yourself

Finally, don’t be scared to let your freak flag fly.

Yes, there’s a job to do and it’s a serious job. But at the end of the day, you’re working with human beings.

Without being crass or inappropriate, show your personality. Create levity. Be an honest, passionate and authentic human being.

It’s okay to be different, and it’s important to show who you really are. This won’t only determine if you fit your new office, but it will also determine if your new office fits you.

Coming in to work every day 9-5 is no small sacrifice. Make it count and set the groundwork for a happy and authentic career. Your future self will thank you for it.


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