Many students have acquired a consistent work history by the time they’re thinking of graduating from college. But employment opportunities for students are typically limited. A student who may have advanced from washing dishes at a local restaurant to promotion as the weekend manager has obtained valuable experience in cash handling, customer service, making out schedules, and working with others. But unless a student is majoring in the hospitality field, that experience may not be of intrinsic value as he or she seeks employment.
It’s important to show an effective use of time in college, but an internship in a student’s chosen field of study can be the key that opens the door to future employment. Internships are a way to obtain useful skills and experiences while also making valuable connections in one’s chosen field. The people with whom a student works during an internship may be future co-workers, bosses, or contacts, so the time spent as an intern leads to networking with others in the field.
Internships also provide a valuable wake-up call for a student who chose a major based on what he or she thinks he wants to do for the rest of his life. Then the internship reveals that the rest of your life is a very long time; if you’re interning as a journalist and you discover that you’re too shy to interview a local politician to ask why there’s money missing from a public account, you may want to reconsider your choice. The key is to schedule your internship early enough in your college career so that you can discern your suitability for your major.
Whether you’re majoring in philosophy or computer science, the ultimate goal of your university years is to receive training in a major field of study that interests you and that will ultimately turn into your livelihood. Although an internship can’t guarantee that you’ll win the dream job that will rescue you from moving into your parents’ basement after graduation, it does provide a student with tangible, practical experience that can be invaluable when you’re building your resume.
Paid Internships Pay Off
The numbers are in. According to an article in U.S. News & World Report, of the members of the class of 2014 who received job offers before graduation, 38.6 percent lacked internship or work-study program experience. The value of professional experience is increasing for college graduates seeking full-time work.
But internships have undergone changes that make it more like an entry-level job and less like a learning experience. Matt Sigelman, the CEO of Burning Glass Technologies, a job-matching technology firm, explains it. “Employers want people to come to the workplace with a set of both technical and foundational skills. The more summers you can spend accruing those skills, the more of a track record you can demonstrate to employers.” Another tip from the CEO: Sigelman says it’s risky for students to wait until their junior or senior year to apply for the internship. Start early and build on your internship experience.
Another transformation of the unpaid internship is the current scrutiny that it’s undergoing thanks to labor law infractions. One result of this investigation has been more paid internships; in 2014, 46.5 percent of internships were unpaid, the lowest percentage since tracking of the data began in 2011. Lawsuits against Universal Music Group, Fox Searchlight Pictures and Viacom have put the onus on employers, making them more cautious about requiring interns to work without pay.
Colleges With The Highest Number of Internships
Even if you’ve done your best “hire me” homework, obtained letters of recommendation from the dean and earned stellar grades in a competitive major, that might not be all that you need to land a job after you graduate. The National Association of Colleges and Employers reveals that employers want to hire graduates who have proven their ability to work with a team and have shown their leadership experience. And that’s something that’s acquired outside of the classroom.
A survey by U.S. News and World Report showed that 38 percent of the class of 2013 participated in an internship while they were undergraduates. But there are 10 schools where at least 88 percent of the undergrads completed an internship. Some of those schools make an internship a mandatory part of graduation. The top ten “internships are a must” colleges Include Bennington College (Vermont); Elmira College (New York); Harrisburg University of Science and Technology (Pennsylvania); Lasell College (Massachusetts), Wagner College (New York), Bay State College (Massachusetts), Morrisville State College (New York); Taylor University (Indiana), Bentley University (Massachusetts); and Maine’s Maritime Academy.
How To Be A Productive Intern
The statistics for why an internship is the right step on the path to employment are convincing. But what do you do to stand out once you’ve landed the internship? Even though you’re new at the job, you can still impress your co-workers with your determination to do your best and to be a valued team member. Here are a few tips on how to make your internship an effective learning platform for employment.
What Do You Do and When Do You Do It?
Some of your work will be administrative. You might be scheduling appointments, taking messages, forwarding recurring emails and countless other tasks that might seem mundane, but are a core part of a department that runs smoothly. Find out the inner workings of your employment set-up. If there isn’t a reference document that’s available for sharing, create it yourself. The next intern will appreciate it, and your employers will note your initiative.
Lauren Berger, the author of Welcome to the Real World: Finding Your Place, Perfecting Your Work, and Turning Your Job into Your Dream Career has this advice: ask questions so that you do your work right the first time.
Use your classroom skills to benefit your internship experience. When you’re training, take notes and write down what you’re learning. Every workplace has its own routine; you want to know what’s expected, and you don’t want to ask the same question repeatedly when you’ve already been given instruction.
Find out who’s in charge of what so that, if you have a problem, you know where to go. When does the manager need to be your point of contact, and when can the mailroom clerk solve your dilemma?
Before you show up for work the next day, write your task list so that you’re ready to go when you enter the door. Asking your supervisor—or supervisors, since many internships are accompanied by multiple people overseeing your training—when an assignment is due keeps you on track with the work calendar. What task needs to be done right away so that you feel that you’ve accomplished the main objective for the day? Make sure you check that one off first; it’ll make a huge difference in your work-stress level.
Early Bird Benefits
If your employer permits, consider coming in early if you’re falling behind on a project that’s left you feeling like control of the assignment is escaping from you. By coming in early, you can get your work underway while the office is still quiet and distractions are fewer. Just getting through your emails will give you a jump on the day’s productivity.
Internships Lead To Results
If you’ve successfully completed your internship, you’ve given your resume a tremendous boost that will attract attention when you begin your job search after graduation. Don’t forget to ask your internship supervisor for a reference letter. Many internship programs are a way for employers to train potential new hires. If you’ve done well during your internship and created a positive impression, you may find that your supervisors are so impressed that they’re looking forward to hiring you for a full-time position after you graduate.
Enhancing your employability may mean completing more than one internship. Impressing your future employers with your academic achievements is important. It’s just as important to demonstrate that when class is over, you know how to get the job done.