As both an educator and a partner in Quintessential Careers, I get very frustrated when college students graduate and then tell me that they can't get a job because employers disdain their lack of experience.
We try to impress on students how phenomenally important it is that they complete at least one internship, and preferably several.
But since we still hear from students facing the how-can-I-get-experience-if-I-have- no-experience dilemma, some students are probably wondering why they should complete internships.
Let's start with the No. 1 reason and work down the list of reasons you must do an internship:
1. Employers increasingly want to see experience in the new college grads they hire. A staggering 95 of employers said candidate experience is a factor in hiring decisions, according to an annual survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Nearly half of surveyed employers wanted new-grad experience to come from internships or co-op programs. If you have completed internships, you will clearly have an edge over your classmates who haven't. In an Associated Press article, reporter Emily Fredrix quotes Philip D. Gardner, research director of the Collegiate Employment Research Institute, as saying that internship experience is "just one of those things you have to have before employers will even consider looking at your resume."
2. Employers increasingly see their internship programs as the best path for hiring entry-level candidates. "Not only does participation in an internship make the student a more attractive candidate," says NACE Executive Director Marilyn Macke, "but it can also be an avenue to a job." NACE's 2008 Experiential Education Survey shows that hiring from the intern program is growing. Employers reported that nearly 36 percent of the new college graduates they hired from the Class of 2007 came from their own internship programs, up from 30 percent from the Class of 2005. Matthew Zinman of the Internship Institute reports that IBM hires up to 2,000 interns annually and converts more than half of them to full-time hires. Recruiting guru Dr. John Sullivan writes on the Electronic Recruiting Exchange that "the most effective sources I have worked with have consistently found that quality internship programs produce the highest quality candidates, the most productive hires, and the hires with the highest retention rates."
3. You may get paid more when you graduate if you've done one or more internships. Even back in 2005, NACE reported that surveyed employers that hired entry-level candidates with internship/co-op experience paid them 6.5 more than those without the experience.
4. You could earn college credit toward your degree. Many if not most colleges provide credit for eligible internships. Check with your faculty adviser or career-services office to see what your school's or major-department's policies are.
5. Internships enable you take your career plan for a test drive. You might discover by interning in your planned career field that it's not what you thought it would be like. Or one niche of your field is a better fit for you than another. Let's say you're a marketing major, and you complete an internship in marketing research. You discover you hate it. Before giving up on marketing, you do an internship in public relations and find it's a perfect fit for you. Isn't it better to figure all this out before you graduate and are stuck in a field that's not for you? You can also test out career paths not in your major. Let's say you've decided on a major but always had a lingering interest in a completely different field. You could do an internship in the other field to decide how strong your interest really is and whether you want to beef up your studies in that field. Finally, you can test out creative ways to combine your interests, as one student we know did who was wavering between med school and a marketing career and did internships that combined...
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