10 things interns won’t tell you

Source: MarketWatch

By Maria LaMagna


Ben Sanders

1. “You’re not giving me enough to do.”

It’s no secret that in today’s hypercompetitive internship market, students and recent grads are jostling for a chance at even unpaid stints where they’ll do little more than make copies or organize supply closets. Almost two-thirds of the class of 2013 participated in an internship or co-op, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the highest rate since the group started tracking internship numbers in 2007. And nearly 50% of those internships were unpaid.

But at the same time, employers have strong incentives to keep these newbies happy. Because of recent changes in the work world (including an influx of 20-somethings who are still struggling to find full-time work), some companies are relying more than ever on these new, untrained hires; and others are relying on their intern pools to find and develop talent that can play bigger roles someday. And that means more mid-career professionals have to learn how to manage, recruit and work with them.

Five things interns won’t tell you

While companies are busy assessing their interns, the interns are assessing them right back. MarketWatch’s Jim Jelter takes a look at the situation from the interns’ point of view and discusses five things interns are not likely to tell their employers. (Photo: Getty Images)

None of this means that interns want to sit around, biding their time until they can check “internship” off their resume to-do list. If anything, experts say, the competition for internships has produced a crop of eager workers who are hardly satisfied with coffee runs. Internships that include only menial tasks are unlikely to end up in any rankings of “best internships” or even to get good reviews from former interns. In research conducted by consulting firm Intern Bridge between 2007 and 2012, gaining hands-on experience in their field was the quality potential interns desired most from their internships. Although nearly 84% of interns surveyed said they were satisfied with their internship experiences, more than 65% said there was room for improvement. And more than 68% said they would even accept less pay for more experience.

Fortunately for interns with an appetite for hard work, the tide seems to be turning. Lynne Sebille-White, the senior assistant director for employer relations at the University of Michigan’s career center, says she has seen employers increasingly give students more substantial tasks in the past several years. Very few internships are 100% grunt work now. Employers, especially those offering paid internships, are able to get a better return on their investment when their interns have more responsibility, she says. When they complete projects, the employers are able to implement some of their ideas or expertise, plus get a better sense of the intern’s capabilities. “Now, internships are like a three or four month job interview,” she says. “When interns are filing or getting coffee, you’re not testing what they can contribute to your organization.”

 

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