How to turn your internship into a meaningful career
An internship can do so much more than pad your resume—if you know how to use your time as an intern wisely. Some internships can even lead to a job after graduation, as Virginia Tech grad T. Van Nguyen knows firsthand.
As a college student, T. Van landed a summer internship with Leidos and ended up interning here for three years. When her first summer at Leidos came to a close, T. Van took initiative and asked if she could continue in a part-time role during her studies. Until she graduated in May 2021, T. Van did full-time summer internships followed by part-time internships during the school year. Now she's a full-time member of our talent acquisition team. But working in recruitment at a large company wasn't always her plan.
“I wanted to own a small martial arts studio," T. Van says, explaining that she served as an assistant manager at one prior to interning at Leidos. “I felt like that work was changing people's lives. But gradually my view widened as to how I could contribute. At Leidos, too, I get to make a difference."
Why intern at Leidos?
In recent years, Leidos has offered either internship extensions or full-time jobs to 92% of its interns. Beyond internships as an entry point, there are many other ways in which interning at Leidos can help you shape a successful career. Here are three of the ways her Leidos internships benefited T. Van:
- You can make an impact. As early as T. Van's first interview, she not only learned about the projects she could work on as a Leidos intern but also the impact she could make while doing them.
- Leidos has a great culture. T. Van was encouraged by the long tenures of Leidos employees. “People wanted to stick around, which was attractive. And now I know why. Our teams are great at collaborating, and we enjoy doing meaningful work," T. Van says.
- Opportunities abound. When she first learned about Leidos internships, T. Van realized it was a great way to learn about the directions she could take within one company. “I knew that if I got the internship, the amount of exposure I'd get would be life-changing. This pushed me to keep learning more about Leidos and all the fields we work in," she says.
Advice for interns who want to earn a job
Interns who hope to transition into full-time roles can learn from T. Van's experience. Below are seven ways she got the most out of her internships—and a job at Leidos.
- Find a mentor. Mentors can help you discover your innate strengths, guide your career choices, and make helpful introductions. T. Van's mentors shared valuable constructive feedback to help her grow and they continue to challenge her.
- Move beyond your comfort zone. Stay open to the possibilities or you might miss out on opportunities you wouldn't expect. “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable, whether that's learning new skills, like data analytics, or talking to someone you don't know," suggests T. Van.
- Take initiative and pursue what you want. As an intern, T. Van did this time and time again. She asked to continue her internship, pitching herself at the end of every summer and school semester. During her final year in school and especially as her graduation neared, she expressed her interest in taking a long-term full-time job. She also recommends asking for projects that interest you while interning: “I eventually knew that I wanted to be a recruiter, so I asked to help with tasks related to that role."
- Look for the bigger picture. Working to understand how your work fits into the larger picture adds meaning to your work and inspires you to do your best. T. Van paid attention to how her work impacted her manager, who in term could then better assist her to step up.
- Do everything at your highest ability. When you take each task seriously and do your best, you'll be ready for increasingly challenging and impactful work. “It shows people that you're ready for new challenges, which can lead to more opportunities down the road," T. Van says.
- Network. Ask to meet with people on the teams you could see yourself joining. This helps you start developing relationships and even become part of the team at some point. “It's OK to lean on the fact that you're an intern," T. Van says. “People here are happy to help you network."
- Provide value. “While I was an intern, I lived by this motto: How can I make this better?" says T. Van. For every project she worked on, she tried to find a way to improve something, and this drive helped her stand out. “I wasn't here to do a job that just anyone can do. I wanted to show them: Here's what I can do," she says. Don't be afraid to look for things that could be done better and then to position yourself as part of the solution. “No matter your position or who you are, you really can make a difference," T. Van says.
Interested in following in T. Van's footsteps as an intern or in an entry-level position? Browse our open internships and our open entry-level positions for new and recent graduates.