How I Turned my Higher Ed Internship into a Job

Thankfully, and somewhat unexpectedly, I was able to turn a six-week internship at a textbook publisher into a job as a higher-education marketing assistant. I say “unexpectedly” because even though I had intentionally chosen to intern at a higher ed publisher thinking there’d be a greater likelihood of getting hired there than at a trade publishing house, (“trade” houses publish commercial books for a popular audience—fiction, bios, cookbooks, political, et cetera), when my internship ended, there were no contracts on offer and no permanent positions on the horizon.

My plan was to use the summer to build up my resume with freelance and volunteer work, until two weeks later when I got a great surprise phone call. “Are you still looking for work?”  I’m convinced that these three things were what got me work after my internship:

1)  Creating a Pet Project

I knew I wanted to come out of my internship having completed one measurable project; something I could use to demonstrate project management. I was able to zero in on one thing I enjoyed doing most during my internship: helping out with a recently launched direct-to-student website and blog initiative for promoting the company’s e-textbooks. I loved writing and organizing content for the blog, and I had some great ideas for the site and let my supervisors know. Soon enough I was creating an editorial calendar for the blog, finding student bloggers, creating social media goals, delegating writing tasks, and creating blogger guideline documents.

Employers prefer to know that you’re bringing ideas and initiatives to them, not only doing what’s assigned to you. The project was something that I could get genuinely excited about, and it was noticed and appreciated by superiors in the department—people who later hired me for my current position.

2)  Being Independent

Sometimes the best way to be helpful is to walk away and do work on your own. As a newbie in a company, it might not seem natural, but instead of always getting absolute and certain clarification about how to complete a task, it can be a welcome time-saver to just say you can do it, and figure it out on your own later.

This was important for me because during my internship, I got a major don’t-bother-me-unless-absolutely-necessary vibe from many of the people I was helping in my department—fair enough, they’re busy people—so, instead of getting clarification of unclear tasks for a second or third time, I would often just take my own time to learn a new program or figure out how the printer works on my own. Later, I found out that my my higher-ups appreciated my independence; it built trust in my work, gave people in my department relief from a lot of tasks, as well as the confidence that I could manage the work on my own.

3)  Good Timing

Not the greatest thing to hear, because it’s nothing you can do anything about, but timing sure helps.

Before my internship, I had heard countless stories about people getting certain jobs in publishing due to happenstance: someone suddenly quit, someone went on mat leave, an unexpected position opened up and they had just the right qualifications. I was so sure something like that wouldn’t work out so seamlessly for me. But here I am, week four into a job for which the publishing house called me, right after someone suddenly quit.

Was I the best qualified for the position? Probably not. But I was in their minds after having done a good job during my internship, and I was just a phone call away. Good timing is a product of luck; it’s unpredictable and beyond your control, but that’s exactly why it could work in your favour when you least expect it to. You can invite luck to strike by doing good work, first and foremost. But you can also let people know what type of work you want to do, talk to a variety of people about the work you want to do, and let those people know what skills you have and are rapidly gaining, even skills you might not be using during your internship.