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How to Turn an Internship Into a Job

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The dream of using an internship as a gateway to an entry-level job is back.

Employers plan to increase their summer internship hires by 8.5% in 2012, the biggest year-over-year increase since before the recession, according to a survey of 280 companies put out last week by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. This represents a significant turnaround from 2009 when the number of internship hires was expected to decrease by 21% from the year before.

Much of the increase in internship hires is tied to the larger shift in the employment outlook for recent graduates.

“The overall job market is improving for college graduates,” says Andrea Koncz, employment information manager with NACE. At the same time, she says the vast majority of employers who were surveyed (79%) view their internship programs as a way to “find full-time hires.” So as the economy continues to get better and employers increase the number of hires, it’s only natural that more interns will be given staff positions.

Throughout the past decade, internships became increasingly common in industries like banking and public relations, and increasingly useful for landing a job as companies recognized the perks of hiring from within their internship programs rather than looking elsewhere. While the number of hires may have fluctuated because of the economy, the philosophy remained the same.

“I think companies realized that if they are going to be hiring for internships and hiring for employees, why don’t they just make more of those interns transition into employees so they don’t have to recruit twice,” says Lindsey Pollak, author of Getting From College to Career. Aside from cutting down recruiting costs, Pollak says internship programs provide companies with a better way to vet whether potential candidates are a good fit for the company, both in terms of their skills and their personality. This way, the intern is less likely to quit or be fired later.

Even though most companies view their internship programs as a bull pen for potential hires, it’s certainly not a guarantee that you’ll be offered a job at a company just because you intern there. For that reason, you need to be proactive in promoting yourself while interning to improve your chances of receiving a job offer. Here are a few tips from our career experts on how to turn your internship into a full-time job.

Be ambitious from the start.

You don’t have to wait until your first day on the job to be proactive. Pollak suggests making it clear in the interview for the internship that you’d be interested in being considered for a job after the internship ends.

“When you are interviewing for the internship, say ‘I think this company is fantastic. Is it common for interns to get hired to work at the company?” she says. It might sound overly presumptuous, but as Pollak points out, “Who could fault you for being enthusiastic?”

Schedule regular check-ins.

Once you’ve started your internship, it’s important to schedule one-on-one check-ins with your boss about your progress and to set expectations going forward.

“An intern should definitely go to their boss once a month and say, ‘Am I doing everything you would like me to do, and is there anything you’d like me to improve on or help you with?’ That creates real velocity on how much people want you on their team,” says Robin Richards, founder and CEO of Internships.com.

During one of those conversations, you can also ask whether it’s common for interns to be hired at the company and if so, ask the manager for some tips on how to best position yourself for that opportunity.

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