Trying to turn that internship into a real job come graduation? This is just one of many tips in our Internship-to-Job Series

In a perfect world, your odds of landing a job at the completion of your internship would be based on the quality of your work.  Unfortunately, you’ll need to find time between making copies and fetching coffee to show off the impressive social skills you have been perfecting on campus.  No company wants to give the pink slip to an intern that the whole office loves.  I’ve been at my internship/part time job for over a year now, and still find myself tip-toeing (usually unsuccessfully) through a minefield of miscommunications and awkward situations.  

Studies show that, given the choice, people would rather work with a someone they like than someone who is good at their job. So if you plan on settling in at your company and graduating to a big boy’s desk, office politics and social obligations will probably mean more come decision time than your data-entry abilities or how fast you carry boxes to your boss’s car.  ”Office politics” usually refers to using effective communication to climb the career ladder.  As an intern though, you just want a chance to get onto the ladder.  With this in mind, here are a few tips for winning over your office and snagging a job.

1. Know how to speak up

This can be deceptively difficult, and really depends on your company and work environment.  You may have some really great ideas that you are uncomfortable suggesting in the company of your older, more experienced coworkers.  If you’re having trouble speaking up, it’s useful to have an ally (bonus points if it’s your supervisor) who will go to bat for you when you feel like being assertive.

2. Show interest in others

I work at a fairly large company, and sometimes struggle with this one.  Knowing everybody’s name, asking them about their kids or their vacation…these are the things that make a company want to keep you around longer than a semester.

3. Talk to your boss about goals

This is YOUR internship, treat it as such.  Of course you will have tasks that you are expected to complete, but this is your chance to show what you can really do.  Talk to your supervisor once you start your internship about what you’re capable of, how you can better the company, and how you want to go about accomplishing this.  Obviously, be sure that you follow through on any tasks that you create or take on, even if it means working late or from home every once in awhile.  The intern who shows initiative in front of the boss is the intern who gets hired.

4. Handle conflicts like a pro

When you get thrown into an office environment with so many other people, it’s entirely possible that you will have to confront a disagreement with another employee.  As an intern, you have to remember that pretty much everybody around you is your superior, so you’ll want to tread VERY carefully.  Always try to keep a level head and deal with the problem in person (rather than email or instant messenger).  Arguments are part of being human, and if you approach the situation maturely and handle it responsibly, you can win the respect of your coworkers and your supervisor.  That said, it may be wise to avoid conflict until after you actually land a job.