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I'm currently a student but I'm about to graduate with an undergraduate degree. I've been looking for a full-time entry level position for after graduation and have been lucky enough to find several different companies that seemed to be a good fit for me. However, after reaching out to several companies (and interviewing with a few as well), I've noticed that many companies are quick to offer an internship instead of a full-time offer.

I can partially understand the business reasoning for this; however, it is rather frustrating as an applicant when I am specifically applying for a full time position (either through the listing or if it is a generic application in what I say I am looking for). I'm still interested in working for these companies, but not as an intern. What is the best way to handle these situations?

As clarification from the comments:
I have 2+ years of professional experience plus my education. Easily enough to qualify for an entry-level full time position. The difference between being an intern and being entry-level full time is huge, at least as I see it (please correct me if I am wrong). It puts you in a position where less people take you seriously (I'm a new hire vs I'm just an intern). You're paid less and have a title that means much less on a resume. If, for whatever reason, at the end of the internship, I was not made a full time offer. I'd have to start looking for another entry level position as opposed to a possible promotion. Say from Software Engineer I to Software Engineer II


I'm in the U.S. software industry if that makes a difference.
I'm also not sure exactly how to tag this, so please feel free to edit in different tags.

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    I'm still interested in working for these companies, but not as an intern. Would you care to explain why? You have not graduated yet. You may no have much experience. You understand the business reasoning for this. Why would you not want to be an intern? – scaaahu Oct 2 '15 at 4:16
  • @scaaahu The positions I am looking for would start after I graduate, not while I am still in school. – lightfires Oct 2 '15 at 4:20
  • The point is not you are graduate. It's that you may not have much experience. Do you have lot experience? – scaaahu Oct 2 '15 at 4:22
  • I have 2+ years of professional experience plus my education. Easily enough to qualify for an entry-level full time position. The difference between being an intern and being entry-level full time is huge, at least as I see it (please correct me if I am wrong). It puts you in a position where less people take you seriously (I'm a new hire vs I'm just an intern). You're paid less and have a title that means much less on a resume. If, for whatever reason, at the end of the internship, I was not made a full time offer. I'd have to start looking for another entry level postion as opposed to ... – lightfires Oct 2 '15 at 4:25
  • ... a possible promotion. Say from Software Engineer I to Software Engineer II – lightfires Oct 2 '15 at 4:26
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You are currently being perceived as intern level by prospective employers. This means that:

  • Your experience is not obvious on your CV; or
  • Your experience is not convincing to an employer.

Either way, you are being pigeonholed as a new starter as an intern. So there are two ways to look at this:

Make your experience stand out on your CV

You need to show clearly to a future employer that your experience is real and comprehensive. Employers are not seeing that in your CV. Make sure that you list:

  • The role and your responsibilities;
  • Your duration at each position;
  • What methodologies you used or may have introduced;
  • Whether it was full or part time; and
  • Any technologies you have used.

You need to clearly demonstrate a professional level of experience, not just toy problems. You should also indicate your expected graduation date, especially if it's very soon (thanks to @Kai for the suggestion).

Accept that you are at an intern level

Depending on how many organisations you have applied to and have received the same feedback, then perhaps you should indeed consider an internship. It is a normal progression for students (even with some external experience) to go from school, internship and for a role. Many organisations may well be looking for that commercial experience in an intern role that highlights you have worked in a professional environment.

Either way, it comes down to being able to convince a prospective employer. You can continue to hold out for a role that may not be forthcoming, or you may be able to do an internship, get past that stage and then be far more attractive to prospective employers.


Now as far as your current dilemma where you have been offered an internship but would really prefer an entry level role, I would suggest not directly rejecting the internship but perhaps saying something like:

Thank you for the offer of an internship with your organisation. I was actually really looking for an entry level role because of my 2+ years of experience. Would you consider me for a role at that level?

You haven't then closed the door (well, not completely) on an internship, and you have tested the water of your likelihood of obtaining an entry level role. If the response comes back negative, then you still may have the option of accepting the internship if you so desire. But this is your choice as to how you wish to handle it :)

  • Thank you for the feedback! One question that you didn't really address though, if a company does make an internship offer (or at least asks if I am interested in an internship), is there a good way to say "no thank you, but do you have any entry level positions?" – lightfires Oct 2 '15 at 4:59
  • @lightfires I'd hold off on the "no thank you" part, but you can simply respond that you were really looking for entry level roles and if they would consider you for one of those. If you get a negative response, then you haven't burned a bridge to still taking the internship if you so desire. I'll edit that into my answer. – Jane S Oct 2 '15 at 5:01
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    It also may be that if you don't have a graduation date on your resume, they assume you'll still be in school for a while. I'd add next to your current school something like "degree expected Dec 2015," or whenever, to make it extra clear you're graduating very soon. – Kai Oct 2 '15 at 5:12
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    I really wanted to upvote twice (one extra upvote for the response to the internship offer). @lightfires Now I hope you understand why the missing info (2 years experience) in your original version is critical. – scaaahu Oct 2 '15 at 5:13
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    Thanks for all the helpful advice! That last part is what I was really looking for, but the rest is great advice as well. I'll give it another day to encourage additional answers and then probably accept yours. – lightfires Oct 2 '15 at 5:17
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What is the best way to handle these situations?

If you feel that you can get a full-time position in a time period that works for you, then just politely decline all internship offers. Saying something like "Thank you, but I'm not looking for an internship - only a full-time job." would suffice. It's polite, and doesn't close the door on work with the company.

Internships are routinely required in some professions, and in some locales. If you are in neither, then you should just avoid accepting an internship, and insist on a full-time position.

In some cases, your insistence may open up the possibility for a full-time position at the same company. But in others, they are looking only for interns and you'll need to move on.

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Internship after graduation is a somewhat tricky subject. It's easy for the company since it's significantly reduces risk: pay and and benefits are considerably less and it's easy to terminate if things don't work out or if the business situation changes. These are exactly the same reasons why it's a bad thing for the new employee.

So in essence it's a game of supply and demand: If there is enough qualified people in the market they will try to land someone who will settle for an internship.

This being said, if you can't find a regular gig, an internship is definitely a viable alternative. It's better than nothing and it's a good way to get a foot in the door and get some experience on your resume. However you should clearly communicate that you view this as a temporary state:

  1. State clearly upfront that your goal is permanent employment with full benefits
  2. Ask about requirements and measurable performance metrics that will get you a permanent job. "what do I have achieve to become a regular employee?"
  3. Let them know what you will be keep looking for permanent employment as long as you are an intern.

The last one can be controversial but the company is not committing to you, so you can't commit to them either. Your goal is permanent employment (see bullet #1) and you are being open and honest about this. If they can't offer this, you need to be looking elsewhere and that's all right. Being honest about this is uncomfortable but better in the long run.

One of my son did this: his internship boss wasn't too happy about this but he accepted it and they had a good conversation about it. So my son kept interviewing and when he found something permanent they parted as friends.

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