3 Is the New Number for College Internships


Every college student knows that they need to complete an internship in college. Philip D. Gardner, research director of the Collegiate Employment Research Institute, says that internship experience is “just one of those things you have to have before employers will even consider looking at your resume.”

More than two-thirds of college seniors report that they have had one internship while in college. Recent studies have indicated that students graduating with internship experiences, in general, are more likely than students without those experiences to find a job before they graduate.

More and more companies have started to use their intern programs instead of using on-campus recruiting. For these companies, an internship is basically an audition in disguise, not only for the company but also for the student as well. It is the ideal way for both sides to test out if a working relationship is possible.

The truth is, 1 is no longer the magic number when it comes to internships. To stand out from other applicants, college students need to plan on 3 internships while in college. These can be summer internships, internships during the school year, paid internships, unpaid internships - no matter what you call them, a student needs to plan on completing at least 3 internships sometime between when they unpack as freshmen and when they walk across the stage to graduate.

Let’s review the 3 types of internships college students should pursue:

Learning The Ropes

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Why: Obtaining real-world working experience is essential, especially if they’ve never been employed. When a student interns in a new workplace, they gain first-hand knowledge about how a professional environment works. Through interaction with co-workers and a supervisor, a student will begin to ‘learn the ropes’ as they differ depending on the employer’s process methods. If a student is interning for a large company, they’ll learn how multiple departments work in relation to each other and how their career of choice impacts the overall goals and operations of the organization. Time management, and handling a workload, is another important skill they’ll learn as an intern. During their time as an intern, they'll start understanding how to manage your time effectively to complete their internship duties so they can meet deadlines, participate in meetings, and do research.

When: Students should plan on completing this type of internship during the summer between freshman and sophomore year or during their sophomore year.

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Test Drive A Career

Why: Students interning in their planned career field can test drive their assumptions and their determine their fit. These internships provide work experience in the programs they are studying, building their resume with relevant experience. For some students, they find that it’s not what they thought it would be like; for others, they find one niche of their field is a better fit than another. Students can also test out career paths not in their major. Most importantly, students can experiment with creative ways to combine their aptitudes and interests.  In a recent study, more than 80% of students confirmed that the internships helped them shift their career directions by changing the focus of classes or majors. After this internship, many students discovered gaps between their classroom learning and what they need to know in the real world.  Some employers will even suggest additional courses students should consider.

When: Students should plan on completing this type of internship during the summer between sophmore and junior year or during their sophomore year.

Nailing The Audition

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Why: Getting hired by the company where a student is interning is probably the best, and most sought after, benefit of an internship. Whether the internship is paid or unpaid, this third type of internship can often be an audition for a full-time job in a specific career track. Managers have the chance to evaluate how well a student is able to work under pressure, make decisions and complete goals, and collaborate across a variety of projects and teams.

For many students, the company offering the internship will be more important than the location — underscoring their willingness to move around for the right internship or job opportunity.

When: Students should plan on completing this type of internship during the spring semester of their junior year, the fall semster of their senior year or the summer between junior & senior year. Many companies start hiring interns for this type of internship up to one year in advance.

An internship can often be the most important way  to differentiate a student from the stacks of other applicants who have also applied for the job they want. Employers want people with industry-specific experience, so a student needs to make sure the internship they choose will be applicable to the next step in their career.

In the next post in our series on internships, we’ll discuss networking as the secret sauce for making the most of each internship.

Bob Carlton