By: By Michael Lewis
Internships, both paid and unpaid, have become increasingly popular over the last decade with employers and candidates. Employers have long recognized the significant expenses incurred to identify, recruit, hire, and train employees, only to lose the employee who then quits and moves to another company or industry. Presently, one in three employees in the U.S. leaves his or her job for a new position each year – this is substantially higher than the rate of one in four that existed in 2006, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
The associated financial costs, trade secret security risks, and loss of productivity for companies, as well as the delayed advancement opportunities for employees, have spurred both parties to embrace company internships as a “trial run,” a period where each can realistically determine whether a long-term relationship would be mutually beneficial. And whether they stay on board, interns can gain a wealth of practical experience that can set them on the path to a long and rewarding career.
Benefits of an Internship
Internships are generally formal programs developed and offered by companies to potential future employees, whereby the company provides a limited on-the-job experience in return for the intern’s labor, either free or at minimal pay.
The experience enables the individual to:
- Test Career Interest. Through on the job experience, an intern is in a better position to determine whether he or she has an interest in a particular career, industry, or company.
- Network. Interns can create a network of professional contacts that may benefit them throughout their working lives.
- Solidify Credentials. The experience (even a few months) of actually working in a position increases your credibility with potential employers, and may earn additional or necessary school credits.
- Secure Employment. Successful internships often lead to employment offers with the company sponsoring the internship.
An internship usually lasts from two to four months, during which time neither party is committed to a longer relationship. The training provided to the intern generally includes job shadowing, whereby the intern works with an employee doing the work that the intern would likely perform if hired.
While many interns receive a minimum hourly wage in the United States, compensation is not required if the internship is:
- Intern-Directed. The training is for the benefit of the intern, not the company, and the transferred skills are not unique to the sponsoring company.
- Training-Focused. Interns must not replace regular employees or perform unsupervised services similar to what an employee would do if available.
- Noncommittal. The intern is not required to be hired at the end of the intern program.
- Mutually Agreed Upon. The intern and company understand and agree to the conditions at the start of the internship. For that reason, most companies require a formal agreement of internship which details the conditions and limits of the program.
How to Find Internships
Vault, a career intelligence website, has identified 821 intern programs in the United States in a variety of industries and major companies. Though an excellent resource, their database doesn’t purport to be all-inclusive, and undoubtedly represents a fraction of the intern programs available from smaller regional and local companies.
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