For seniors dreading graduation like the guillotine, it may seem like the least probable fluke of fortune: the unpaid, unappreciated internship that blossoms into a salaried, respectable post with health insurance and a comma in every paycheque.

With the economy still sidewinding on its return trip to recovery town, one might think that interns clutching half-page résumés would be abyss-bottom low on the waiting list for in-demand jobs.

But as coach Allison Nawoj explains, interns have a foot in the door -- or more precisely, a reputation in the office -- that can escalate them into entry-level work, or beyond.

"Getting a full-time opportunity out of an internship is more than likely," Nawoj says. In fact, CareerBuilder’s most recent survey of employers estimates that at least half of bosses would slide a job offer to an intern -- if said intern had the right stuff.

"That's an encouraging statistic for people to keep in mind," she says.

The Internship Bible author Samer Hamadeh concurs. "If you're a hard worker, you're solid, you've got really good skills, the jobs will open up," he says. "If you're the type of person that genuinely wants to learn, then you're what organizations really want."

"If you're not like that, you can't really fake it," he adds.

But even if you lack the moxie of a super-intern, mundane habits can establish your readiness for real-world work.

"Think of your internship as an extended job interview, which it kind of is," Nawoj offers. "Meet deadlines, always be on time, and be professional."

Make friends, too, she adds.

"Ask people in the department if you can shadow them," she suggests. "That shows that you’re seeking out challenges, which is a great way to extend your internship into a full-time opportunity."

Who to Intern For

Some companies view interns as expendable transients, revolving out the door each semester.

But for a select few prestigious hirers, internships are a structured method of harvesting talent: Microsoft, Dell, Frito Lay, Goldman Sachs, Procter & Gamble and the White House all treat interns like future shakers and movers, Hamadeh notes.

"We've talked to some interns at the CIA who've done some top secret stuff -- policy papers on Russia they can't even tell us about," he says.

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