Make Sure You Don't Blow Your Internship
Remember that scene in Grease when the Rydell High kids are singing about the summer? Danny "had me a blast," while for Sandy it "happened so fast." It seems a strange comparison, but many summer interns at America's leading companies describe their summers the same way. Not all experiences are quite so rosy, but in any case, young employees get both a feel for their corporate culture and a taste of the work force during the course of these often finely crafted programs. Whether their time is spent doing substantive work that affects the company, or just making Starbucks runs all summer, there is a goal in mind. Summer interns need to spend those precious weeks making a favorable impression in order to get that all-important full-time offer.
Granted, the reason that many summer programs are so carefully organized and lavish is so that interns will want to come back. In many programs, "you have to seriously mess up not to get [an offer]." Much more commonly though, interns are not afforded such leeway, and need to be aware of what it takes to secure a full-time position. First and foremost, while the fate of the company may not hinge on the work interns produce, optimum effort must still be made on assignments. Simply put, no matter if it seems insignificant, "whatever work you do, make sure to do a good job," advises one recruiter. Satisfying this requirement may mean punching the clock after the summer sun has disappeared for the night. Most businesses do not take kindly to employees who leave a vapor trail out the door when the five o'clock whistle blows.
Also extremely important are the connections, however informal, made with established employees. This is especially true with mid-level and senior employees who have a say in who gets hired. Those who assume that a stellar academic record and a shiny pair of Ferragamo wing tips are a substitute for engaging conversation may be in for a rude awakening come Labor Day. Successful networking can be accomplished by working for a variety of people or through socialization inside the office. Attendance at company social events, when offered, is an "important way to build personal relationships within the company" as well. Whether cruising the halls or knocking a few back at the local pub, a gregarious persona cannot be discounted - "office wallflowers just will not cut the mustard," says one corporate insider. On the other hand, there are limits; for instance, insiders at Goldman Sachs tell a cautionary tale wherein one investment banking associate who failed to get an offer was snubbed "as a result of excessive brown nosing."
At the same time, summer interns need to be careful about exposing, or more to the point imposing, their personality on their fellow employees. At some companies, for example, "you're not allowed to be rude to anyone - secretaries, the lady in the cafeteria, or whoever it is." Even fast-paced offices with a reputation for "screamers" may be averse to bringing in new people who will perpetuate a harsh culture. "Some summer interns behave completely inappropriately," says a source at a Wall Street firm. "One recent summer associate had a big mouth and she screamed a lot. She made enemies in only eight weeks, including some managing directors."
Of course, even when interns generally play their cards right, one wrong move may stand between them and a job offer. For instance, an insider tells Vault that one would-be full-timer was not asked back to his company after "arguing with a partner at a softball game about what position to play." Another inexplicably turned over an entire assignment to an unqualified subordinate. Perhaps the most extreme example involved an overly enthusiastic intern at one firm who, while on a company retreat, stripped off his clothes and hopped into the hot tub. That's a little too much information!