If you’re reading this, you probably have an English degree, a STEM major, or an Art History degree. In my case, I had a generic Business degree… so did half the world, it seemed.
In 2016, I had just graduated from a non-target school and didn’t know much about the opportunities available in the business industry. Even worse, I didn’t have a strong network because I had gotten my degree online. Unlike my peers who had schooled physically, I didn’t have the opportunity to network at career fairs or create valuable connections. Nevertheless, my parents and friends kept trying to reassure me.
“You can do pretty much anything with your degree! It’s applicable to so many fields,” They said.
Ironically, that was the problem.
There were millions of other graduates with the same (business) degree applying for the same jobs. Enter the internship.
If you attended a four-year school and completed some form of an internship, you’ll know different degrees attract different types of internship programs. For instance, my friends with more generic degrees found their internship programs filled with grunt-work – data entry, paper copying, scheduling meetings for managers – and had a hard time learning meaningful work.
Although their managers tried to salvage the situation, the hectic schedules made developing important projects difficult. I found myself in a similar situation.
I had an internship with the Learning & Development (L&D) team of The Biltmore Company, a luxury destination in Asheville, NC, my hometown. At the time, I had no idea what training and development entailed. Even though the entry process was competitive, I expected to land in marketing when I took an “actual” job. I was, however, surprised to discover that the L&D team was entirely devoted to training Biltmore’s staff and partnering with other departments to solve their challenges. This job description attracted me as it aligned with things I loved, including training, speaking, and developing empathy between people.
I was an intern. And unfortunately, the intern whose shoes I filled had left a poor taste in everyone’s mouth.
When I first started, everyone genuinely welcomed me. Shortly after, I began to work on elementary tasks such as data entry, serving snacks and drinks in hire orientation events and cleaning up lunches after meetings. Besides that, the department had no intention of hiring another full-time staff member soon. So it looked like I’d have a four-month internship, then we’d go our separate ways.
On top of everything, the other corporate interns were coming from more prestigious schools like Duke and Clemson. I was the underdog.
That didn’t stop me, though. Because the more I saw what the L&D team did, the more I fell in love with the work.
I was determined to create a full-time L&D position for myself by leveraging the internship…
To land a full-time job, I knew I had to convince my managers that:
Did I manage to achieve that?
Keep reading to discover the processes I followed and how you can also use them to turn your summer internship into a full-time job.
Often, as interns, managers give us ‘deciding’ projects that may seem meaningless at face value. One of these for me was data entry. I had to track attendance for mid-level managers who were on the path to earning their leadership certifications. This task was monotonous.
However, rather than simply entering the data, I showed more initiative by redesigning the Excel sheet so the rest of the team could easily use it, thereby saving time. Doing this made my manager realize that I was capable of more. As a result, she soon began to entrust me with projects that full-time employees would have ordinarily handled.
When I first started at Biltmore, I was introduced to a small team of 30 who specialized in L&D and recruiting. I could have taken the easy choice and just gotten acquainted with only them. Instead, I asked, “which of the other departments and 2400 other employees can I get to know?” I wanted to understand how L&D imparted other divisions and build my personal brand as a connector and servant leader.
Using the company directory, I emailed the directors of other divisions – Group Sales, the Winery, Retail, and Guest Success – and set up lunches with them. During these lunches, I acted as if I were already a full-time employee and asked questions like, “what’s one way we can serve you better?” “What keeps you up at night?” Afterward, I took those learnings back to the L & D team and offered recommendations to improve our strategies. This made the jaws of my team members drop. They saw that not only did I work hard on small things, I also took the responsibility of broadening my professional network and bringing meaningful, useful insights back to the team.
If you aren’t sure how to reach out to leaders, that’s okay! Here is a template Wonsulting created to help you.
During these lunches, I learned there were misunderstandings between the L & D department and Marketing. Mainly, it was because our department was responsible for recruiting, which often moved at a fast pace. Sometimes we didn’t know if we had a job fair until five days beforehand!
On the other hand, the Marketing team was more thorough and deadline-focused. Our department created the rub when they requested marketed materials for job fairs, and the marketing team couldn’t deliver ASAP, throwing them into a hurry to complete the job. I took it upon myself to become the bridge, even though I was just an intern. I held meetings with a few key department heads, then built a process to help each team meet their needs.
After three months, the departments began to promptly answer each other’s calls and collaborated on broader-scale projects.
If you want to transition into a full-time position at the company where you intern, make it clear to your manager. As long as you’re hardworking, curious, and skilled, your manager will try to find you a placement at the company, even if it’s a stepping stone to getting your desired role.
Many companies hire their staff first before recruiting outside the company. Biltmore does the same. Thus, I applied for many internal positions to get acquainted with their interview process. Some managers even held “mock interviews” with me to help me prep! Further, I researched, developed my storytelling skills, and learned interview questions.
By the time the actual interviews came up, I was prepared and comfortably passed each round! You can do the same.
If you follow these steps, you will be certain to make an incredible impression on your manager and possibly land your dream entry-level job. Because of these steps, I managed to build valuable connections and got hired as the Manager of Biltmore Center for Professional Development, where I had the opportunity to train other businesses nationwide. That dream role came from showing what I could do as an intern!
Hannah Williams’s story began in a blue pickup truck when her father handed 12-year-old Hannah the phone and asked her to close a deal on an investment property. After this unexpected introduction to the world of entrepreneurship, she found herself thrust into a climate of innovation, challenge, and opportunity, and she enrolled in college at age 14 and graduated with a degree in international business at age 18. Now, as a 23-year old Gen Z’r, she has consulted businesses from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies and is on a mission to help leaders leverage Gen Z talent as a competitive advantage and build #RadicalEmpathy in the workplace.
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