Transitioning From College Student Internships to Full-Time Careers

If you’re lucky, at the end of your internship, you’ll be asked to stay on as a full-time employee (or at least encouraged to apply for a full-time position). The opportunities given to you since you have experience with the company might be great, but at the same time, it can be hard to make that jump from intern to employee. Here are a few tips to help with the transition:

1. Clearly define your job duties before you start, and don’t be afraid to remind others of them.

As an intern, you were likely asked to do lots of menial tasks just to get things done around the office. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you got real job experience as well. When you move into a regular position with a company, it can be hard to get others – and yourself for that matter – to think of you as anything more than an intern. However, if you’re officially the company’s newest stockbroker, you shouldn’t be making coffee or delivering mail. If it isn’t in your job description, politely remind the other employees that they should look to the new intern or the secretary to complete their tasks. Of course, pick you battles. If Donald Trump himself asks you to get him a cup of coffee, I don’t care who you are – you get him that java!

2. Takes things seriously from the start.

Chances are that you always took your internship seriously. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t have been offered a full-time job. However, while in the past you might have been able to get away with things (like taking a 20 minute break instead of a 10 minute break or leaving at 3:30 instead of 4:00), that won’t be the case any longer. You’ll be expected to do your job as promised or they’ll fire you. This isn’t putting you at a risk for a bad grade. This is your livelihood!

3. Talk about vacation time, benefits, sick/personal days, and perks.

As an intern, you probably didn’t get anything – you may not have even gotten paid. In some cases, your transition from full-time intern to full-time employee is just a matter of signing a few papers or talking to payroll. Sometimes, employers forget to discuss the nitty gritty, since this seems like information you should already know. Once you’ve been offered the job (and usually before you accept), ask about your vacation time, benefits, and sick/personal days. Know company policies for requesting days off for any reason, and find out who to talk to if you have insurance or retirement plan questions. Also, find out about the other possible perks, which will depend on your specific job. For example, do you get a discount on a product your company makes? Do you get a free parking spot? Does your company have employee tickets to sporting events? No one mentions these things at first unless you ask!

4. Get into the habit of showing up early.

You’re probably used to a college schedule where being a bit late to class or skipping class completely isn’t a big deal. Your internship may have also been extremely flexible when it comes to timing. Don’t fall into bad punctuality habits with your regular job, though. You can be fired for showing up late, especially if you do so consistently. At the very least, you’ll be passed up for promotions or offered only very low annual pay increases.

5. Ask questions, but realize that this is no longer an education opportunity.

If you don’t understand how to do something, it is always better to ask a question than to do it the wrong way and have to clean up a mess. However, keep in mind that your job is not a learning experience like your internship was. You’ll be expected to take initiative, and if you can figure out the answer to a problem without asking your boss or a co-worker for help, you should.

It can be intimidating to move from your position as an intern to a full-time position. Don’t underestimate the differences between these two work dynamics. When transitioning to a regular job, be prepared for a few bumps in the road.

Find out how to get student internships while you’re in college, and ways that intern experience can lead to a career after graduation. Lisa Jenkins is a career counselor writing for JobMonkey, a free website. Learn about popular internship programs including those with Disney and other Fortune 500 employers.

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