Five Reasons to Find an Internship Now!

by Erica Redmond

The 2010 census data demonstrates the wrenching impact of the recession on 20-somethings in search of jobs.

Young adults are suffering the highest unemployment rates since the end of World War II, with only 55.3 percent of 16 to 29 year olds employed. The Associated Press penned them the “Lost Generation.”

According to the National Association of College and Employers (NACE), 42.3 percent of college graduates who have internships during college find jobs, a major difference from the 30.7 percent of graduates without that experience. Also, salaries of former interns are an average of 31 percent higher than non-interns.

Considering bleak opportunities in the job market, college students should participate in internships to help boost their chances of being hired, according to Lynn Pearson, director of Azusa Pacific University’s Office of Career Services. Pearson outlined some valuable ways that internships prepare students for their future careers.

1. Gain experience and learn how to apply classroom theory.

Having an internship may not be the “real thing,” but it bridges class learning and a practical work environment. It helps students understand the relevance of coursework, and plan their classes to fit their career goals.

“Transitioning to a full time job can be shocking for most graduates. Most of our students have part time jobs, but it’s so different from a full time, professional career,” said Pearson. "Internships can help prepare students for that transition."

2. Refine your career plans.

According to Pearson, many people start internships certain they want to go into that field, but walk away realizing that it may not be a fit for them. Sometimes, their ideals are shifted or altered entirely, but some are able to confirm their career goals during their internship experience. Either way, it is important for students to explore potential careers so they can apply for jobs that will fit them well.

“Everyone should try to get at least one internship in their field of interest, because it gives you experience related to your major and helps you figure out if this is really what you want to do,” said Pearson.

“Everyone should try to get at least one internship in their field of interest, because it gives you experience related to your major and helps you figure out if this is really what you want to do." - Lynn Pearson

3. Build a resume.

Attending college is more common today than it was 20 or 30 years ago, so hiring is based on the possession of a degree and experience. Having an internship on your resume sets graduates apart from the rest.

“[The job field is] really competitive. Internships give you that extra more-than-just-a-degree experience,” said Pearson. “It’s definitely more important [to have internships] now, partly due to the economy and the competitiveness of getting a job. And more people now have bachelor’s degrees than in the past.”

For help creating a resume, pick up a Resume Guidelines booklet in the Office of Career Services, or make an appointment with a career counselor.

4. Develop a network.

In 2009, employers said that 44.6 percent of their recent graduate hires came directly from networks built in their own internship programs, according to NACE. Additionally, 83.4 percent of employers said their internship programs are designed to recruit entry-level college hires.

“Students don’t usually find networks of people in their field, unless they meet people through internships,” said Pearson.

According to Pearson, 80 percent of offered jobs come from personal connections, while only 20 percent come through job postings.

5. Learn about yourself.

Students can look at their strengths (as identified through the StrengthsFinder) to find what type of career may be a good fit. When looking at job descriptions, students can compare the strengths needed for a job to the strengths they have. The same goes for finding internships. Certain strengths fit well with certain jobs, so people can try different internships to find out which job is the best fit.

“Maximizer, for example, is one of my strengths, which is extracting potential from people. Being a career counselor is a natural fit for that,” said Pearson. “Some of it has to do with choosing environments. Some strengths point to actual skills, and some point to the values that inform what you would want in a job.”

When Pearson returned to graduate school for university counseling after 10 years of work experience, she had three internships.

“They were all different and taught me things about myself, what I wanted, and what I didn’t want. I wouldn’t have had any of that had I graduated and done just one.”

When should students start looking for internships?

The sophomore and junior years are good times to look for an internship, according to Pearson. If students start their sophomore year, they may have time to do more than one internship during their undergraduate studies.

Does it matter whether or not an internship is paid?

Both paid and unpaid internships can provide great experience for college students. However, graduates who take part in paid internships are more likely to find a job. If a company is willing to pay its interns, they are more likely to perform “professional” duties, thus having a more realistic experience, according to NACE.

Will having an internship help students get into graduate school?

Yes. Many types of graduate programs, especially business and social work, look for applicants who know the field of work beyond the classroom, according to Pearson.