Internships: What’s In It For You?

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Business News Daily, a site aimed at startups and small businesses, suggests that internships are on the rise. 

The concept of internships is hardly the sole premise of Capitol Hill. Industries from utilities to cosmetics offer hundreds of thousands of internship placements each year. The suggestion that they will become ever more popular is a view that is shared by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) whose 2012 Internship and Co-op Survey reported that the number of internships was expected to increase by 8.5 percent in 2012.

The bad news? Despite very public concerns that some employers use the troves of willing students as an illegal path to getting free labor, some industry experts consider that one quarter to one half of internships remain unpaid. Also of concern is that some students report that their “prestigious” internship did not provide any career-based education of value, but rather involved three months of completing repetitive tasks that were pretty much unrelated to the career in question. 


With the prospect of little or no pay to look forward to, not to mention a steady stream of menial tasks, we must wonder whether internships are worth it. We have to say yes. After all, not all internships will be unpaid (and even some that do go unpaid are definitely worth the commitment) and for every company that delegates the most tiresome tasks to their interns, there will be a thousand more that actively seek to involve their interns in the core workings of every department of their business. 

There is indeed no denying that internships, whether paid or unpaid, can act as a valuable stepping stone to help graduates secure employment. Evidence from the NACE report suggests that the intern to full time hire conversion rate has hit an all time high of 58.6 percent. That figure has to be attractive in the current employment landscape. Even those students who do not secure a job offer following an internship will be better placed than others to find employment elsewhere. Research conducted by Millennial Branding in association with career services firm Experience Inc., found that over 90% of employers consider that students should complete between one and two internships before graduation. A similar number of employers felt that the duration of those internships should be at least three months. 

Teamwork, communication, positive attitude, and flexibility are skills that are sought after for most entry-level positions. Although relevant courses, referrals, and on-campus leadership roles can improve the odds that a graduate will gain employment, undertaking one or more well-defined and thorough internships is by far the most effective method that graduates can use to develop and hone those all important soft skills. 

There is plenty of advice out there for students looking to find the perfect internship. Three places to start are:

How To Get An Awesome Internship
How To Get An Internship
The Intern Queen (Lauren Berger completed 15 internships while at college)

As with most things in life, perhaps the key to getting the most from an internship is finding the right opportunity in the first place. Of equal importance, of course, is the matter of applying yourself correctly.

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