Getting your foot in the door.

Author:Challenger, John A.

ROUGHLY ONE-IN-FOUR EMPLOYERS recruit workers from the pool of current and former interns. With an internship being a real way to get a foot in the door, it is more important than ever for job seekers--whether college student, graduate, recent grad, or reentry to the workforce--to perform well in these employment proving grounds.

Internships are an essential stepping stone to full-time employment for entry-level job seekers. In a recent survey of human resources professionals by our firm, 26% of respondents said that internships are the leading source from which entry-level candidates are recruited and hired.

Employers view internships as a valuable hiring tool, giving them the chance to evaluate a potential employee's performance for an extended period of time in real-world conditions. It also lets an employer gauge how the intern fits into the company culture, which nearly is as important as skills and experience.

Treat each day like a job interview. You want to set yourself apart from your fellow interns. As the sluggish economy potentially leads to fewer full-time positions, it is critical that interns exceed expectations. Those who merely meet expectations probably will not get a full-time job offer.

Meet the right people. It is likely that the person supervising the interns is relatively low on the corporate totem pole. In fact, he or she may be only a year or two out of college. The intern with full-time job aspirations should make a daily effort to meet the managers and executives who make the hiring decisions. The higher up the executive you impress, the greater the odds that a permanent position will be found for you. Interns who do not receive an offer from the company still can benefit from the experience. Managers and executives in the company represent the beginning of your job-search network. Even if they cannot find a spot for you in their company, they might know executives in another company that may have openings.

Treat your internship as a real job. The best way to prove you are qualified for a permanent position is through action. Think of your internship as a trial period or extended interview for obtaining the position you desire. Always be on time and meet deadlines. Maintain a positive attitude and show that you are eager to learn and succeed by seeking out feedback to improve your performance and develop new skills.

Take initiative and exceed expectations. By taking initiative you can show management...

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