By: Linnea Caswell
a recent nationwide student survey, 80 percent of 2009 graduates who applied for jobs reported that they were unable to find a job before graduation. In 2007, only 50% of students were in the same situation. Despite the dismal job market, future graduates can avoid extended periods of unemployment by gaining experience now through internships. Internships, according to the latest statistics, are the smart way college students can prepare themselves for the line of work they’re most interested in.
What is it?
An internship basically means learning by doing: working on a short-term basis for a company, organization, or individual to gain experience in your field. Students engaging in accelerated distance learning have a unique opportunity to take advantage of internships since they tend to have more flexible schedules. Additionally, distance learning students often graduate with little or no debt and in less time than their traditional counterparts, enabling them to get a jump start on their careers.
Interns Are More Likely to Find a Job
The most obvious advantage to internships is the potential for full time employment. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) new college graduates who had participated in internships did far better in the job market than their classmates who had not had that experience. In 2008 employers extended job offers to nearly 70 percent of their interns, up from 57 percent in 2001.
The Numbers Don’t Lie
The numbers for 2009 are just as encouraging for those who’ve been interns. Just 14 percent of 2009 college seniors who hadn’t been interns had jobs waiting for them upon graduation. In contrast, even in 2009’s tough job market, 23 percent of interned graduates had full-time jobs by that time. It makes sense that employers would look to hire from those who have proven themselves by demonstrating their skills, abilities, and character by fulfilling daily responsibilities associated with their internship.
Interns Gain Valuable Experience
Even if your internship doesn’t turn into a job at the particular company you’re interning at, the experience you will have gained can make it easier to obtain employment elsewhere. According to NACE, responding employers indicated that while 31 percent of their new employees came from their own internship programs, 62 percent had internship experience of some kind.
Hands on is Best
Book learning can only do so much for a person’s career – hands on experience, whether it’s in the office or in the field, is vitally important to many employers. Along with experience, some internships can also provide compensation for your time. Though not all internships are paid, the ones that are, tend to be generous, according to NACE’s 2009 Experiential Education Survey. The survey found that employers offered interns with bachelor’s degrees an hourly wage of $16-18 depending on the field of work. Regardless of compensation, students should treat an internship as a real job that ensures future opportunities in any field they choose.
Internships Help Clarify Calling
Finally, internships can provide much needed clarification of goals, life purpose, and calling. There is nothing like working daily in a certain environment to help you decide if this is where your heart is and where God has called you to be. Do you like the work? Can you grow and learn in this environment? Is this job confirming God’s purpose in your life?
Graduate Early for a Greater Advantage
On a practical note, students who graduate early (for instance, by age 18) can get a jump start on their careers with real life work experience. Setting yourself apart from your peers by getting a few years experience in a field can make a big difference to future employers. Particularly those who graduate early can intern somewhere for a few months to try out different lines of work, without feeling pressured to obtain full-time employment because of a heavy debt load. When students make the effort to graduate early and understand how internships fit into the picture, the prospects are bright for future employment
How to Get an Internship
If you’re convinced that an internship is a route to consider, make an effort to make it happen. Talk to family, friends, work acquaintances, or professors (if you’ve taken any traditional college classes) and let them know your interests and that you’re looking for an internship opening. Search the Internet for possibilities. Or, create your own internship! If you have genuine interest in working for a specific company or learning about a certain field – take the initiative.
You Make it Happen
You can set forth your goals, lay out what you could offer the company, ask for their input and consideration and see what happens. Opportunities abound for those who pursue learning and serving through internships – so go for it! Take the time to locate or arrange one; you’ll be glad you did.