Most college students dream of that perfect internship – you know, the one where you are taken in on a paid contract, starting out at the bottom and miraculously in four months to a year, you’ve worked your way up, made pals with the manager, and before you’ve even got your MBA in hand, you’ve landed that six-figure job in finance – offer made and accepted – awaiting your arrival after graduation day. And why? All thanks to that killer internship you landed back in September.
Granted – it could happen. But it is safe to say that the story above won’t apply to everyone. Still, regardless of the more realistic internship stories: unpaid, part-time, no six figures at the end of the day; internships are still valuable experiences in more ways than one. They provide many young professionals with a first-hand glimpse into the workforce, they help individuals gain the skills needed to successfully obtain and withhold a job in adulthood, and sometimes – yes it is true – they even lead to a lasting, maybe even lifetime, career.
In fact, with a crowded job market today, internships are more important and more sought after than ever and some of that dream story above is true! Internships are much more than a way to develop professional workplace skills or get a taste of a specific industry or line of work firsthand.
Interns – and business owners – want to find employees that will succeed in an internship, learn the ropes, and become a valuable asset to the company long-term. In fact, according to Forbes magazine, odds are, an internship today will get you a job tomorrow. According to Forbes: “If you are a college graduate and you are working at a paid internship, a new study shows, 60% of the time, that internship will turn into a job offer.”
60% of the time, an internship will turn into a job offer.
Job owners today realize that an internship is the most effective tool available for recruiting the kinds of employees they want to hire. And it’s important for you to get the most value from your college experience by using internship opportunities to your advantage.
Internships Come in All Shapes and Sizes
So you’ve landed an internship – but what does that really mean? There truly are no universal rules across the professional world that define exactly what an internship can or must entail. For all intents and purposes, your internship could have you hovering over the Xerox machine in the copy room four hours a day or you could be the right hand woman for a powerful CEO. Because there are no real regulations when it comes to internships, be sure you really have a grasp on what you’re applying for.
The National Association of Colleges and Employees says, “Experiences through which students can apply their academic knowledge in work settings are a vital component of a college education. These experiences are widely labeled as ‘internships,’ but the criteria for and oversight of these experiences vary widely among institutions of higher education and employers in the United States.”
In order to better understand the internship, you’re planning on taking, start your search by looking for and applying to internships that have clear and concise job descriptions and day-to-day task breakdowns or explanations. Know your goals – what you hope to gain from your internship – and see if these two things line up.
Next, if you get the interview – ask questions. The interview is not only a chance for your potential employer to ask questions, it’s also a chance for you to be inquisitive. Ask for clarification on anything that seems unclear in your job description. Ask for a walk-through of what your day-to-day will be like as an intern. And then, ask where this internship could take you – what does the company feel you can gain from the experience.
This last question is key. You want to know that the company values you as an intern, someone who is seriously considering this line of work for a career, and not just as a copy boy or errand mate. If the company can answer this last question well, that’s a pretty good indication that the company takes its interns seriously. At this point, feel free to ask if there’s a possibility that your internship could lead to a job with a specific company or even a career in the field. And ask how these goals could be reached.
Showing your potential employer how serious you do not only gives you the answers you need to make an educated decision when choosing an internship but also lets them know that you are professional and potentially in it for the long haul. And employers love that.
Knowing Your Personal Goals
In order to manage to find the right internship, you do need to know what your own personal goals are before you step into your interview. A poll conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employees (NACE) concluded that full-time job access is the number one item college students would hope to achieve from an internship. In addition, they seek team-building opportunities, training courses, and mentor programs.
If this is your main goal, then be open with your potential employers about this topic. You may find you’re more likely to end up with a job offer in the end at one internship than another. Feel free to ask what percentage of the company’s interns go on to obtain a job within the company and within the field. Organized companies that are serious about hiring interns will know the answers to these questions.
Employers Love to Hire Interns Too
When it comes to internships, employers are winners as well. “Internships allow us to connect with and build relationships with students early in their academic careers,” said Mary Anne McNulty, Manager of Staffing and College Relations, Starwood Hotels & Resorts. “This builds a pool of candidates who have work experience with us and who have forged relationships with our managers.” In this way, companies and businesses benefit in huge ways by taking on serious and dedicated interns who later become full or part-time employees.
Hiring interns is a great way for employers to conduct a 12-week interview, for example, according to an interview led by the University of California at Berkley. Employers find that it’s easier to transition a new employee into the company if they were previously an intern because it truly cuts down drastically on training and transitional time. The intern already knows the ropes, can get around the office, and understands the business at least on a basic level. This type of knowledge is invaluable when it comes to hiring a full-time employee.
The Benefits are many according to a career advice article on Monster, a leading website in job placement worldwide, students can benefit in more ways than one from an internship. Interns state that they gain confidence, accumulate evidence of their abilities, make critical professional contacts and gain invaluable industry knowledge all through internship experiences.
And then of course, one of the main benefits would be landing the job afterward. Since you’ll be more confident and understand the industry better, you’ll be better prepared to put your resume out there and get the job of a lifetime. You’ll also have first-hand experience that all employers find critical in their search for the right candidates.
Internships are For Everyone
Perhaps you are in a line of study that does not traditionally support or offer internship programs. Just because your area of study does not require an internship, it does not mean that you can’t benefit from one. You can consider studying and interning abroad, taking an internship with a non-profit that interests you, and even volunteering in hopes of eventually interning with a specific organization.
No matter your line of study, there is an internship out there for you. Take time to examine all your options. Take a look at these statistics from the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ 2009 Experiential Education Survey:
- 7% of 2007-08 interns were offered fulltime positions.
- 6% of these offers were accepted.
- 3% of employers’ full time, entry-level college hires came from their internship programs.
So even if your specific department does not offer an internship program, look outside the box and see what options are out there. An internship can help you build real-world abilities like time management and communication skills, they can introduce you to the professional world you’re likely to enter after college, and in many cases, they can be that first step to finding and obtaining the career of your dreams.