We tend to think of internships ending in a full-time job offer as something that either will or wont happen, depending on the employer’s finances and the intern’s job performance. That’s largely true, but how should an intern think about this equation?

A few weeks ago, I was reading a blog post submitted by one of our interns, Mike Cavalli. Mike is currently in the process of interning at Fuchs Audio Technology, a boutique audio equipment company and he’s pretty keen to turn it into a full time job. He’s working double-time to show his value and make that happen.

Frankly, it’s impossible to say whether that will happen or not. I, nor Mike, can jump into Fuch’s financial records and know if they’ve got the cash to hire a full-time employee. I also assume that Mike is doing a five-star job there, but again, I’m taking his word for it. When you intern, there’s just no guarantee your internship will turn into a job. Most don’t, and it’s largely dependent upon the company’s need and ability to hire you, your performance, interpersonal dynamics, etc. You shouldn’t assume to land a full-time job unless you’ve got some pretty clear indicators it’s going to head that way. But Mike’s got a very important mental concept in his mind to give himself the best shot at his goal.

If you read his post, you’ll quickly see that Mike understands that his value as an intern (and potential employee) is not static- it’s not a fixed quantity. Mike understands that his value as a worker, in the mind of his supervisor, is partly within his control. Mike gets that Fuchs may not have the cash to hire him full time. Instead of seeing his internship as something that probably won’t pay out, just a quick stop on the way to bigger and better things, Mike is asking himself, “How can I, as an intern, help this company grow to the point where not only can they afford to hire me, but can’t see themselves growing without me.

Now, clearly, for students just starting their exposure to the real-life working world with limited experience, that’s a tall order to fill. Not everyone has the ability. Not everyone’s internship may put them in a position to be a game-changer. But Mike is approaching his internship with that attitude, so he is definitely going to look for those opportunities and make an attempt. I like that.

But what if he doesn’t make it? Let’s say that it wasn’t enough- maybe by a hair or maybe by a long shot. What did Mike get out of his effort? First of all, we should never underestimate an employer’s decision to hire based on passion. They get that you don’t have experience. They see you tried your best and made some big progress, but not enough to make their company a leader in its market. Maybe if the money is there, they’re willing to invest in that passion and dedication they saw. They might say, “Hey, this kid busted his you-know-what for our company. Maybe with some more mentoring and a couple of years, they’ll really become a rock star here. Nice effort. You’re hired.”

Then again, Mike may not get that job. But he still wins. Mike’s building the critical attitude we all need to approach our future jobs with, no matter what they are- to add value to your employer. Even if it doesn’t “pay off,” it’s great practice. My guess is that the extra effort Mike is putting in isn’t just practice for a good mental attitude towards work, but also paying off in learning the skills associated with his job, which he’ll take to his next employer. He’ll be both an attractive candidate and valuable employee in the job market with the right attitude, honed skills, and, likely, a glowing recommendation from his previous internship supervisor. Not bad.

So regardless of whether you get the job or not, attitude is important- and pays back no matter what happens. Keep that in mind when you punch in at your internship tomorrow.


Joe Burke is the Office Manager for the Office of Experiential Learning