Employment Guide: Internships can lead to jobs

By Gretchen Andersen

A good day at some internships means making it to 5 p.m. For others, it means landing a… A good day at some internships means making it to 5 p.m. For others, it means landing a job.

In fact, experts and employers said the students who turn those internships into jobs frequently stay after 5 p.m., and put their full effort into everything.

Internships are becoming important in hard economic times, when job opportunities are rare. Cheryl Finlay, director of the Office of Student Employment and Placement Assistance, urged students to stand out from others by staying longer at work, or even coming in when not scheduled.

Finlay also advised students who are looking for a job to demonstrate teamwork skills and keep a positive attitude.

“While interning, seek feedback and input from your supervisors and co-workers so you can improve as you go along,” she said.

Another important aspect is to remain professional and think of the internship as an “audition,” said Carrie Kazmer Johnston, Employment Development Specialist in the Office of Student Employment and Placement Assistance.

Although it is not guaranteed that a student who completes an internship will be offered a job, there are ways students can increase their chances. Johnston said networking within the company is one step students can take to turn their internship into a possible job.

“Make sure you put the work in that is expected of you and show your willingness to go above and beyond what is in the internship description,” Johnston said. “Show that you are excited to learn more about the company/organization and the potential job that you are interested in.”

American Eagle Outfitters, Inc., also headquartered in Pittsburgh, offers paid summer internships for students. Interns should consider the 10-week internship a “10-week interview process,” said Jennifer Newman, Campus Recruiter for American Eagle Outfitters, Inc.

After the internship is completed, successful interns — whom Newman describes as those who “take development into their own hands” — are offered full-time positions.

Newman said that in the summer of 2009, AEO, Inc. had three interns participate in its AE Internship Program — all from Pitt — and all were offered jobs. One of those interns was Julia Nauer, a 2010 graduate and now assistant buyer in women’s denim.

Nauer said a successful intern should take initiative and always ask if there is anything more they can do.

“I voiced how much I wanted to stay with the company after my internship was over to anyone who would listen so they knew that I really wanted to be there,” Nauer said. “And I gave 100 percent to every task I had to complete, even if it was something small.”

Not all internships have led to jobs. In a “recent survey of 110 students, 29 of those students were offered a full-time job as a result of their internship,” Johnston said.

Some clear negative behaviors interns should avoid include complaining, disrespecting co-workers, gossiping and bad-mouthing an internship after completion, Johnston said.

PNC, headquartered in Pittsburgh, offers an internship called PNC’s Pathways Internship Program.

PNC also looks for interns who can work as part of a group and can show they are passionate about their work, said Kristi Milczarczyk, vice president of PNC Campus Recruiting.

“A team player who is eager and open to learning and challenging themselves and who can demonstrate strong quantitative and analytical abilities will go far,” Milczarczyk said.

Milczarczyk said PNC looks for internship candidates with an “excellent academic record” in addition to wanting to work in financial services.

Finlay said that it isn’t just the internship work that counts in hiring decisions — grades do, too.

“Don’t forget that your grades will remain important,” Finlay said. “You need to maintain good grades while performing your internships.”