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Why Intern?

Posted on 07 September 2008

I was three weeks into my first and only internship at a now-defunct magazine, and eminent American novelist Robert Stone was in the office for an exclusive interview with the publisher. We were hurling a sticky rubber tongue around the office, as we often did, and things had begun to get a little out of control. I had fired the tongue at the managing editor and knocked over her coffee, drenching her. She responded by jumping up and throwing it as hard as she could back at me, which considering the velocity, would have hurt like hell had Mr. Stone not gotten in the way. The tongue nailed him square in the back, the publisher snarled and the two walked off. Thankfully, Mr. Stone is a gracious man, and was good enough to ignore our callow horseplay.

Hijinks happened quite often, in fact, these occasional spurts of madness balancing out many of the mundane daily responsibilities placed upon me and the other interns. We filled our early days with data entry and editing. In time, having proved our competence, we were allowed to do more writing, on top of our standard intern tasks. I came away from the experience with tons of insight into the world of writing and publishing, and welts covering 15% of my body. It didn’t pay at the time, but it’s certainly paying off now.

According to a recent study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), employers report that more than a quarter of their Class of 2000 hires came from their company’s internship program. In other words, internships are more than just a way to enhance your coffee-fetching prowess. Whether you’re a student or a recent graduate, they’re a chance for you to get your foot in the door, to try on a particular industry for size, and to prove yourself to a dream employer. Above all, they’re the best possible way to avoid the common job-seeker impasse: You need experience to get a job, and you need a job to gain experience. Paid or not, internships will fill that empty space on your resume and prepare you for bigger and better things.

Plus, they’re ideal for recent graduates who are experiencing difficulties breaking into their dream industry. Sure, you may have to live in your parents‘ basement for a few more months, but the experience you will gain will make you much more attractive to those employers who haven’t been returning your calls of late.

Two types of internships

Academic

For students. You work at a company, which has an agreement with your educational institution, which allows you to work in a field appropriate to your major for school credit. Keep in mind that you’ll likely have to pay your school for the credits you earn. You’ll gain experience, and, if you do earn the credits (generally, a running diary and essay are required), you’ll have the chance to lessen your class-load for senior year. An absolute blessing. Take my word for it.

Non-Academic

For students and graduates alike. You work out your own agreement with the company you’re interested in interning with. These are often paid, but students shouldn’t expect to get school credit for their work.

No matter which avenue you opt for, you’ll enhance your skills, bolster your resume, and possibly even secure a job. At the very worst, you’ll come away with the knowledge that this isn’t the right field for you – another form of invaluable experience.

How?

Most schools have made arrangements with employers to refer students interested in interning. Contact your school’s career services office to see what positions may be available. Plus, you’ll get expert advice on how to apply, how best to present yourself to the employer, and how to make a good impression, once you commence the internship.

If you have already graduated, or simply don’t have the luxury of a sympathetic career services office, your best bet is to submit a letter of inquiry to the human resource departments of companies you may be interested in working for. If you’re more interested in getting a better understanding of the options available to you, the Web is always a valuable resource.

Above all, always keep your ear to the ground. There are countless internships in countless fields out there. Those with true mettle may even be able to inveigle a position with a company that generally does not accept interns. Be persuasive. Internships can be valuable to both the employer and the employee. Yes, you will end up performing menial tasks, but if you perform them with panache you may be handed more responsibility, and maybe even a job – one that pays in cash.

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2 Comments For This Post

  1. Lauren Grunstein says:

    Hi,

    It is really important to get the most worthwhile internships out there. I am a student at Boston University and the Co-Founder of internshipratings.com. It is a resource for students to rate, research and compare internships in all industries across the United States. I encourage you to check it out and help spread to word to build the resource.

  2. iD Tech says:

    As someone who specifically recruits and hires interns for the film/technology field, I can tell you that an internship will do wonders to help you get a foot in the door of a tough industry. Not only does it build confidence but it teaches you hands on professional skills and business etiquette. It will make your resume stand out.

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