Interns, make work pay off

| Saturday, July 27, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Most summer interns are about halfway through their stint, and the tension may be building for many who hope their hard work pays off with a full-time job.

More companies are using internships to test drive recent graduates, says Yair Reimer, vice president of marketing for the CareerArc Group.

His company's lists 75,000 to 80,000 active internship offers, a boost of 50 percent since last year, he says.

“Employers aren't posting these internships as a way to give back,” he says. Rather, they are a way to see potential employees in real workplace situations before making an offer.

Sophia Lammers, a DePaul University student studying marketing and public relations, will return to the Chicago school in September after her internship but knows she has a lot to prove. She is working in the business development division for CareerBuilder, a joint venture among Gannett, Tribune and McClatchy.

She knows her success depends on going above and beyond what is asked and remembering to “always have a positive attitude and be thankful for the opportunity.”

Those who want an internship to turn into a job offer should follow these steps, Reimer says:

• Ask questions. “If you don't ask, you don't get,” he says.

By asking questions, you demonstrate to the employer that you're engaged in the work and want to understand where the business is headed.

• Keep your eyes wide open. “It's important that you informally network outside of your department,” he says. “Tell them you'd like to learn more about people in senior positions. People love talking about themselves. Ask the CEO if he or she has 10 minutes to tell you about how he or she got started.”

• Speak up. You may be working hard and expect you will get an offer, but no one can read your mind.

If you want a full-time job, express your interest and let company officials know you enjoy working there.

“It's the exception, not the norm, to have a job waiting at the end of your internship,” he says.

• Don't expect perfection. Interns who receive a job offer may find the work is less than ideal.

Maybe the job involves tasks they don't really enjoy or working in a department that isn't the first pick. Yet an offer could be an opportunity to get a foot in the door.

• Don't jump into a bad fit. If the internship reveals that the company isn't right for you, you think management isn't being completely open or your bosses aren't forthcoming about your job prospects, you may need to look elsewhere.

Every intern should have a Plan B.

“If you don't get a job offer, then continue to pursue your passions or interests,” Reimer says. “Network with others even if you're living in your parents' basement. Tap into your alumni association and call a recent graduate to ask if he or she can tell you what it's like to work in your field.”

Another internship may be a good option, he says, especially since competition for them drops during the school year.

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