I often get asked how I turned my internship at Canva into a full-time position, and would say 10% of it was pure luck or “circumstances”, but the rest was from knowing the right things to do to stand out.
Every internship is different as with every company and every industry.
However, what remains the same for founders and recruiters is that they look for people who take initiative, fit the company culture and add value to the organisation.
Being placed in an internship you’re in the precarious position of usually not being given a tonne of responsibility or autonomy, so the window to add value seems small.
Below I’m going to showcase through my own case study how I could create my own luck to land a full-time gig and how the window to stand out is bigger than you think.
Rule #1: Stop Acting Like an Intern
It’s pretty easy to get bogged down on tasks as an intern because sometimes they’re not the most exciting. That’s how I felt about the first month of my internship.
A lot of it was testing the product myself, looking into competitors and then writing up my findings.
There were no exciting launches or sexy projects lined up.
As an intern you can expect that because the company is taking a bet on you by even letting you intern and you also don’t have a lot of context on the company and team.
Even though people didn’t have high expectations for my work, I took it as an advantage.
I aimed to rival or even be better than a typical Product Manager. For example…
- For user tests, I would be very specific about how the experience was for someone and then raise a potential solution idea to improve it
- For a competitor analysis, instead of just looking at the top few articles on a company on Google search I would go through all the past tweets of the founder for insights
- For feature improvement ideas, I would sketch it up digitally and turn it into a GIF to visually present it
It’s easy to feel like you’re limited by the scope of responsibility you’re given, but there are always ways to shine and break through the noise by levelling up the detail in your work.
Another easy trap to fall into as an intern is asking for help too much.
Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely times where you should ask for feedback especially after you’ve finished a task and want to learn how to improve AND you should be a good communicator if you’re stuck.
But for any task you have questions on, you should re-evaluate if the answer is a Google search away. The least thing you want is to appear like someone that needs to be hand-held.
Instead of raise problems, create solutions.
Rule #2: Make Your Work Visible
It doesn’t end there. You need to make your work visible.
Document your work and findings, and share them constantly. The more you keep popping up with your work to your teammates, managers and your manager’s manager, the more you create a brand of being someone that gets sh*t done.
By the end of my internship, I was able to share this email with my manager who could forward it to their manager and anyone of the like:
The better quality the work is as well the more people are going to perceive the total value of your contribution to the company.
What’s important to mention is that the way you package and show your work can be important as well. For example if in the email above I simply linked all my google docs without any titles or references to what they actually were it would’ve seemed like a waste of time for my manager to sift through them.
Another way you can go a step ahead is for anything you write, work on or create, highlight the high level conclusions and impact of your work first.
Executives, managers and founders don’t have time to read through everything you make, so show the value up-front.
Rule #3: Connect with key people
The final step is to connect with people in the company. This is also important because it showcases your…
- Culture-fit in the organisation and
- If you reach out to the right people, gives you more chance in coming back to the company
During my internship I would set up coffee chats with at least 3 people a week, meaning that by the end of the program I would have met at minimum 36 people in the company, excluding people I serendipitously met during lunches.
Not only is there value in learning more about other people’s work and giving yourself more context on what other people are working on, and even then share your own work. It’s an opportunity to make yourself known.
During my internship I casually chatted with product managers, had lunch with designers and even went on a coffee walk with the Chief Product Officer/Co-founder.
By the end of it the CPO directly messaged me on Slack on if I wanted to stay as an Associate Product Manager after my internship.
It’s scary to reach out to people who seem like they’re too busy to spend time with you. But there’s no reason why you shouldn’t ask.
Your intern status can actually be leveraged as a way for busy people to “give back”. After all, people don’t want to be rude to the intern.
By following these principles you should have a better shot at landing a full-time offer after your internship!