If you're on the fence about whether or not to pursue an internship during college, the statistics alone should convince you to do one. Employers overwhelmingly point to internship experience as the most important factor they consider in hiring new college graduates for full-time positions, and they have a variety of self-serving reasons for feeling that way.
How do you benefit from taking part in an internship? Here's what a few of your fellow students and recent graduates had to say:
Gain Industry Knowledge You Won't Learn Anywhere Else
"Being able to talk with people working in the industry I'm studying to work in is priceless," says Jared Smith, a 24-year-old junior at Shasta College, beginning his second Web development internship for Redding Electric Utility in California. "I was able to spend the day in the control room at the power station, which was amazing for me. I was also able to see the data that is going to be important to me in my career. I learned about things I'll never find in the classroom. Now I can focus on my studies and strive for the knowledge I'll need in tomorrow's workforce."
Accumulate Evidence of Your Abilities
Eugenia Sozzi, a 21-year-old senior at the Catholic University of America, majoring in human resource management, says her recently completed internship at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington, DC, "Gave me many opportunities to test and refine my skills." She spent her summer creating, implementing and managing a new internship program for the organization.
As a visionary, she says, "I had to create a program from scratch, setting down its foundations through a mission and vision statement and creating the core aspects of the program accompanied by the supporting details. As a saleswoman, I needed to sell this program to the supervisors and directors who had better things to be doing than supporting this program and even allocating resources to it."
Now, Sozzi says she can demonstrate her leadership talents to future employers, her ability to work well with different types of people and her skills in seeing projects through from start to finish.
Make Critical Professional Contacts
"One of the benefits I took away from my internship was the personal references I can use when [future] employers ask for them," notes 22-year-old Michael Charron, a recent communications graduate of Worcester State College who interned for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette newspaper during his senior year. "That's important, because now I have an actual reference letter from a work-related person rather than a family friend. Plus, I've also been able to do some networking and get prospective leads on other workplaces that might be hiring."
Your Confidence Will Improve
Michelle Jost is a 22-year-old senior at the University of Wisconsin at Madison who will graduate in December 2001 with a degree in conservation. She's interned as an animal educator at the New England Aquarium in Boston, as an assistant for Natural Health magazine in Boston and as an attractions hostess at Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.
"How have my internships benefited me?" says Jost. "I'm in the process of finding a job right now, and my resume rocks! I'm not concerned about finding a great position in the field I want. I'm going as a Disney-trained, internationally published educational presenter who has the New England Aquarium as my main reference. So I have the confidence of someone who's been in my field for several years, and I have the names, references and organizations to back me up."
Possibly Land a Full-Time Job
Forty-seven-year-old Wendy Stubbs is now a career development specialist at the University of South Dakota, thanks in great part to the internship she completed at the USD Career Development Center last year as a graduate student. Meanwhile, 24-year-old September McIntyre, who just finished her master's degree in public relations at the University of North Texas, landed her new job as a public relations specialist for BSMG Worldwide in Dallas following a six-month internship with the company.
Research shows that 85 percent of companies use internships and similar experiential education programs to recruit for their full-time workforces.
Participating in a college internship can be a great way to earn real-world professional experience to not only boost your resume, but help you land a job after graduation. Most employers look for candidates with relevant experience, so having it under your belt can up your chances of getting a job in the field of your choice.
Competitive careers, like those in marketing and sales or design, often expect internships on their prospective new hires' resumes. An internship can help you get experience iin your prospective professional area, even if the position isn't exactly what you had in mind or directly related to what you want to do. As long as you have work experience in a professional environment that teaches you some of the skills necessary for your job, you should be able to advance later on in your career.
An internship can provide valuable contacts in the industry you enter. For example, if you're in a graphic design degree program, an internship with a design firm can position you to connect with in-field practicioners, thus creating great future employment opportunities. Managers and coworkers who you have worked with during your internship can offer you advice and show you what it's really like to work in a given industry.
Additionally, many companies offer future careers for their interns. They could set you up with a position right after you graduate, so you won't have to waste time looking for a job elsewhere.
An internship can teach you practical skills beyond what you could learn in the classroom. Even though professors aim to keep you up-to-date on what's happening in the field, you may find that the only way to get hands-on experience and understanding is by becoming part of the industry. If you're unsure of exactly what you want to do, you could try out a couple of different internships and see if the job is what you're looking for.
Whether your internship is paid or unpaid depends on the company you intern for. An unpaid internship is worth it, as you will still gain valuable experience. Have questions? Ask a career placement services advisor to help you find something that fits your career goals.