Vanguard STEM

5 Tips for Turning Your PhD Internship into a Full-Time Offer

Dr. Markaisa R. Black, a scientist at Procter & Gamble (P&G), shares how an impressionable internship experience can land a full-time offer.

5 Tips for Turning Your PhD Internship into a Full-Time Offer
[Image description: #WOC leaning against a seat as she reviews notes. Photo Courtesy: #WOCinTech.]
5 Tips for Turning Your PhD Internship into a Full-Time Offer
[Image Description: Dr. Markaisa R. Black, Ph.D. Scientist at Procter and Gamble (P&G), smiling outside.]

Congratulations, you got the PhD internship! At this point, you have gone through a tough application and interview process, and have “convinced” your PI that being away from your lab work for a few months is not going to derail your entire PhD career. So, how do you make sure that your internship turns into an actual job offer and not just a “great learning experience” you had one summer?

Here are some tips on how to be the PhD intern that gets hired.

1. When instructions are given, listen.

DO: Reiterate the instructions to make sure you fully understand your assigned task and given instructions.

DO: Make sure to ask clarifying questions.

DON’T: Assume anything, even if you think you know what the instructions are going to be.

One of the most frustrating things a supervisor faces is an employee who says, “But I thought you said …”

Mind-reading is an overrated sport. If you don’t know how or why something is the way it is, it’s not your supervisor’s responsibility to be aware of your lack of knowledge. Since supervisors hate things having to be redone, clear and active listening immediately puts you in a good light.

2. Attitude is everything.

Your attitude should stand out in addition to the quality of your work. Many employers are looking for interns that are truly excited about their current work and contributions to the team.

DO: Keep a positive and enthusiastic attitude (especially through the “drudge” work).

Standout interns don’t complain about menial work. Interns who understand that even the smallest tasks can be important to their team’s overall success are more likely to be asked back.

DON’T: Bring personal life drama to the workplace.

Personal drama attracts attention for the wrong reasons. Rather, be noticed because you’re the intern going the extra mile, puts in extra time on the project or is always offering sound and innovative ideas.

3. Be a problem solver.

Exceptional interns find ways to solve issues, rather than simply bringing them to their manager’s attention.

DO: Know how to strategically solve a problem.

Clearly identify the issue. List possible solutions. Evaluate the options with your manager and help select them select the best option.

DON’T: Feel that you must come up with an answer.

A common mistake in problem solving is trying to find a solution right away. Problems happen all the time and they may act as opportunities to improve the system and help foster a relationship with your manager or team. Being an integral part of the solution process will set you apart from other interns and help you secure a full-time offer.

4. Understand and align with the culture of the company.

Management will assess if you embody the company’s core values and where you would be a good fit.

DO: Network to participate in first-hand exposure to the corporate culture.

DO: Make it a point to attend corporate social activities such as happy hours or new hire events. This will help expose you as an intern to the culture of the company and current employees. These events also can help you get to know the corporate brand, how the company does business and how co-workers treat each other.

DON’T: Don’t be a loner or isolate yourself from others.

The idea that you can be an individual contributor and be successful is an idea of the past. Fitting within the network of the workplace is a part of the new definition of a great employee. A prospective employee needs to have the ability to interact and get along with the team.

5. Be invaluable.

This is the main factor that differentiates interns who receive job offers from those who don’t. Industry is overpopulated with perfectly qualified PhD candidates. Interns who get hired are not only smart and hardworking; management views them as being invaluable.

This is a space for you make for yourself. There is no “how to” for this tip. This is where you set yourself apart from the crowd in your own unique way.

5 Tips for Turning Your PhD Internship into a Full-Time Offer
[Image description: #WOC meeting in a conference room. Photo Courtesy of #WOCinTech.]

Ultimately, the key to landing a full-time job is getting your co-workers to feel like they wouldn’t know what to do without you. This is important not only during your internship, but also for the rest of your career. If your employer can’t imagine working life without you, you’ll be much more likely to succeed at the company. Go beyond being reliable and showing potential for more, show management that there’s no one else who could quite fill your role.

Good luck!

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