Internships have always been suggested and recommended, but they have never meant so much to the job market.
“Between two resumes that are the same except for a relative internship, I would choose the one with the internship,” said Corinne Snell, Director of the Center for Student Professional Development.
“Internships are extremely important to the job search.”
More employers are looking to their interns first to fill permanent positions.
Employers know what they are getting when they hire an intern and therefore, make fewer costly hiring mistakes.
Given the scant job opportunities in today’s market, employers can afford to be discriminating.
“I’m hitting a glass ceiling,” said Trevor Stasik, a 25-year-old freshman film major. An internship is the difference between working on Hack and working at Starbucks, according to Stasik.
The aspiring writer and director obtained experience by doing short films, documentaries and crew work.
He has found, however, that employers are passing over his credentials in favor of college graduates with work experience.
Is an internship necessary?
“It’s not necessary, but it helps,” said Jeffrey Barg, associate editor of Philadelphia Weekly. Barg worked as an intern before filling a full time position at the weekly newspaper.
An internship does more than improve chances of getting hired after graduation.
Interns do meaningful major-related work for companies in the real world.
This “trial employment” can help students decide whether they really want the career they are striving for.
“It (internship) helped me gain a better idea of what my interests are and the various career paths in the retail industry,” Shannon Siriano said.
Siriano worked at Macy’s in King of Prussia last summer as a paid intern in the company’s Retail Management Internship program.
“It is important to treat an internship as an audition,” she said. “The company is trying you out and if you “perform” well, they may extend you an offer upon graduation.”
Internship experiences vary depending on the employer and the nature of the work.
Some jobs offer pay while others count as credits.
Students should look for opportunities that allow them to do more than file papers or answer phones.
An ideal internship provides training in a professional career.
Incidental to the internship program is the development of professional skills.
Finding an internship is “very similar to a regular job search, ” according to Snell.
Students should research their target company, prepare a resume, go on an interview and wear business attire.
“We don’t place students in jobs,” she added.
Students often find jobs on their own, but they can also access job openings via department listservs, databases and bulletin boards.
Maida Odom, Temple’s Journalism, Public Relations and Advertising internship coordinator, suggested calling the company the student wants to work for and asking for an internship.
Applying for an internship can be reminiscent of applying to college:
Students want to show employers how smart and well rounded they are. While getting job experience is important, employers also expect students to maintain good grades.
In fact, intern programs and many employers have GPA requirements.
Participating in college activities, especially those related to career interests, can also help students get a job.
Preparing for an internship can mean developing weak “soft skills.”
Strong verbal and written communication skills are lacking among college graduates, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
Experiential Learning Coordinator John Arentzen suggested students develop weaknesses by taking classes and workshops, like public speaking or interpersonal skills.
The Career Development Services office provides resume workshops and critiques, videotaped mock interviews, and networking workshops to improve students’ marketability.
Networking is the number one search method used among job hunters and is key to tapping into the hidden job market.
“I think of networking as relationship building,” Arentzen said.
Unadvertised job openings are passed along by word of mouth.
Internships create contacts and help graduates identify networking opportunities in their respective fields.
Meaningful internships are not afterthoughts.
Students are encouraged to plan ahead and investigate their career options early.
“Don’t wait until you’re a senior,” stressed Arentzen.
Most employers fill internship positions with juniors and seniors because they have completed relevant coursework.
However, freshmen and sophomores can do externships or seek part time work related to their majors.
For example, if a student wants to be a lawyer but lacks the academic prerequisites to intern, the student can work as a receptionist at a law firm.
The student will learn something about being a lawyer just by being in the office.
Arentzen suggests reading about intended careers and talking to professors as well.
Students often complain they do not have time to do an internship.
“You don’t have time now, but you’ll have plenty of time on your hands after you graduate when you’re looking for a job,” Snell said.
Lauren Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com.