How to Turn a Design Internship Into a Full-Time Job

By Diane Domeyer, Executive Director, The Creative Group, a specialized staffing service placing interactive, design, marketing, advertising and public relations professionals with a variety of firms.

You’ve had a blast all summer as a design intern — sitting in on ideation sessions, contributing to actual projects and learning directly from the pros. You love working with your teammates and boss, and the feeling seems mutual. Wouldn’t it be great if the creative department decided to keep you on their in-house team?

This next step is by no means a pipe dream. In fact, the latest study from the National Association of Colleges and Employers reports that the offer rate for interns is 70%, with 80% accepting the job. And it looks to get better: The managers who responded said they expect to increase hiring of interns by an average of 2.6% this year.

Ready to turn that internship into a full-time, in-house design job? Here’s what you can do to improve your odds in the time you have left:

  1. Show Them You Fit In. Companies offer internships for a variety of reasons, and one of them is as a recruiting strategy. Savvy employers keep an eye out for temporary workers who know what they’re doing and mesh well with the corporate culture. While it helps to look through the employee handbook, it’s actually more important to use your powers of observation. Are employees boisterous and loud at the office, or do they keep quiet and to themselves? Does your department go out to lunch every Friday? Are there unwritten rules about leaving early or staying late? The more you can show your boss you fit in with the team, the better your chances of getting a job offer.
  1. Network Like Your Career Depends On It. You’ve heard it said that it’s not what you know, but who you know. While your design chops will play a large role in whether you’re asked to stay on full-time, you also need to be visible. Be sure to introduce yourself to anyone you meet, including managers or supervisors you may not report to, as a professional courtesy. Get to know colleagues on a deeper level. Attend social events, even if you’re an introvert. Connect with your fellow interns and staff members on social media. Respect boundaries, of course, and don’t overshare, but do make sure people remember your name, face and abilities.
  1. Take A Proactive Approach To Your Job. No manager wants to hire an intern who’s simply fulfilling a degree requirement. Show the team you’re engaged with and excited by the work. Volunteer for assignments and do more than you are asked to do. Ask good questions. Speak up during meetings and participate fully rather than merely observing. Finish a task early? Ask for more. Don’t complain about what you think is grunt work. Many a great designer has learned the business from the ground up, and you won’t do yourself any favors by acting like a particular task is beneath you.
  1. Leave No Doubt That You Love The Job. Employees will ask how you’re doing and what you think about the internship. When they do, make sure they fully realize you’d like nothing more than to stay on after graduation. When your colleagues and supervisor know this, they can advocate on your behalf if there’s an opening in the marketing department.
  1. Keep In Touch. If you haven’t been offered a position at the end of summer, don’t despair. Maybe there isn’t a job vacancy — yet. Stay connected with your supervisor and coworkers, in person and via social media, and make sure they know about your post-internship accomplishments. Don’t be a stranger. When a position opens up, your name will already be on their minds.

An internship is an opportunity for you to gain actual work skills, but also think of it as a long and involved interview process. Impress your coworkers, boss and other leaders at your organization during these few months, and you may just find yourself negotiating a salary rather than walking off with a going-away tribute at the end.