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The Internship Advantage

Think of an internship as a "test drive."

Whether at the state Broadcasters Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, AT&T or a university medical center, organizations offer opportunities for students of all ages to test drive and gain experience in their desired career fields through internships.

These on-the-job learning experiences enhance students' chances for early career success. They are especially valuable when they are intentionally chosen because they align with careers that students have identified as good matches for them. Internships offer a realistic work preview and provide practical, supervised learning experience. How the opportunities are structured varies by industry and organization. More general internships may offer rotations through different departments and company functions; others, a more focused project or assignment. In fact, today it is common for students to have had several internship experiences.

Each internship enables students the opportunity to:

  • Build a network of contacts within a career field or industry

  • Provide insights and feedback on what it takes to be successful in the field

  • Offer a realistic preview and a means to compare top career choices

  • Achieve a competitive advantage in the interviewing process

  • Try out a new city

The current range of internship possibilities is exciting. Historically open to undergraduate and graduate students, more employers today are making internship opportunities available to high school students. Did you know that today's smart employers are offering internships to identify and recruit high performers for employment after graduation?

What do I need to know?

1. Students interested in internships should begin the process early.

2. Ask your school (guidance counselor, academic dean, or career services) if they offer assistance in securing internships and take full advantage of their resources.

3. Create a great resume and practice your interviewing skills—that includes getting the company background on the internships you are applying for. Treat this search just as if you were looking for a job.

4. Interested in one or two specific companies? Check out their website for information on internships and don't be afraid to go directly to Human Resources or a department manager to propose one.

5. Discover if anyone you know—family, friends or even alumni—works at the company. Speak with them to learn more or gain an introduction.

Will I be paid?
Some of the most competitive interns are paid. It may be a stipend or an hourly rate. Many others are unpaid, but add value to your resume or provide academic credit.

How much time am I committing?
Internships can last from four weeks to one year. It often depends on the age and educational level of the student and how the internship is established. For example, an internship for a Ph.D. in clinical psychology can be an entire year and is required; whereas an internship for an undergraduate marketing student may be part of a semester-long course or a six-week summer experience.

Do I work at the company?
Most internships are located on-site at an employer or organization in order to provide a chance to experience the particular work environment first-hand and interact frequently with other employees and managers.

"On-site" though, may mean on-site in Boston or San Francisco, Japan or Spain. The International Center at the University of Michigan offers some guidelines and information about internships abroad.

In some cases, students have gotten their start with virtual internships.The students do online work and communicate with supervisors and team members through conference calls and emails.

The value of internships is priceless and they are quickly becoming an expectation for top students. With internships, everybody wins.

Check out these other resources!


Yahoo HotJobs for College Students:

CareerBuilder for College Students:

List of employers, organizations and websites that offer internships, compiled by Miami University Career Services:

© Copyright 2007, Career Vision / Ball Foundation. Article may be reprinted with permission.


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