This is the season when the college students who have spent time in their learning-on-the-job opportunities are returning to campus or entering the “official” workforce. Internships have become an important part of the new graduate’s resume. These aren’t typically mandated graduation requirements, but job seeker newbies have discovered that interviewing without any professional, work-related experience behind them can limit their job offers.
Some internships are paid, some are unpaid, some offer the opportunity for academic credit, while others in certain industries are fiercely competitive. Some at prestigious companies offer all glamour, but no challenge and interns run the risk of being “gofers” who have a prominent company on their resume, but have learned nothing substantive from the experience, except perhaps the subtleties of office politics. Still others, are highly privileged and come with a heavy pressure to achieve and over perform.
College students who disregard the importance of internships may be hindering their chances for employment since more and more corporate recruiters are using internships as a critical tool in the hiring process. According to CareerBuilder, 74% of hiring managers say they are hiring college students or recent college graduates, but 17% of employers feel there is not enough focus on internships in preparing grads for the workforce.
Departing interns need to do all they can to maximize the experience. They should review what they learned as compared to their career goals. Those who have spent their summers in positions related to their majors should determine if they can now see themselves employed in this field on a full-time, ongoing basis. They should also immediately revise their resumes while the memory of the experience and the keywords relating to their responsibilities are fresh. Additionally, thank you letters should be sent to supervisors as well as senior leadership and now is the time to use these resources as LinkedIn connections and ask for recommendations. Supervisors can end up serving as important work references and networking contacts. If an intern wants to continue to work in the company or the industry, supervisors can be allies to help get a foot in the door, now or in the future.
Organizations who are interested in bringing some eager, young talent on board for their workforces should contact college career placement centers now to get the ball rolling for the new academic year and for summer 2018. To make your internship program a success choose universities where the curriculum mirrors your needs. Structure a rewarding program to attract the best and brightest and create projects with established goals. Provide a mentor for each intern, beyond their direct supervisor. In a recent survey Collegefeed.com asked 15,000 millennials (60% were in college and 40% had graduated) about what they considered when choosing internships and future employers. The top 3 responses in order were:
- People and culture fit
- Career potential
- Work/life balance
Felicia Fleitman, Founder of Savvy Hires, which creates intern programs for companies to use to pipeline future hires, says, “Your most powerful marketing tool are your current interns – make them Brand Ambassadors for next year’s program. If you think you’d want them to join you full-time post-graduation, consider giving them a soft-offer or discussing your intentions. Also, let them depart with some company swag or pics from the program they can take back to campus. These will keep you top-of-mind and encourage them to discuss the experience with their classmates.”
LLoyd has an active internship program in several areas: Recruitment, HR, Accounting, Marketing/Social Media and General Business and actively seeks out new interns throughout the school year. Barbara Cohen Farber, Executive Director of LLoyd Administrative Support & HR Talent places all levels of corporate support talent, but especially new grads at this time of the year, “Those who have maximized their internship experience and have used it to truly gain new skills and a better understanding of their field of study, will ultimately interview with a different confidence and knowledge than those students who went through an internship experience just because they thought it was expected of them. The student has as much control over the experience as the employer does.”
For those interns seeking solid learning experiences in the upcoming semester, be mindful of good work ethics. Employers repeatedly say that the biggest mistake college students can make that causes them not to hire an intern permanently was to not show enthusiasm for the job. Other mistakes included just doing the basics of the job they were assigned, as well as showing up late for work. Interestingly, a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that paid internships are more likely to lead to a job offer and a higher salary than internships that didn’t pay. – This is often attributed to the fact that paid interns are given “real work” and the employers “test drive” them in a way that is different than those who are unpaid.
Says Farber,“I’ve had more than 20 interns in the last few years and approximately half have gone on to pursue HR or recruiting careers. I am still in touch with almost all of them. When the internship turns into a career, I feel the mentoring and coaching I did during the internship experience was a success. It’s paying it forward.”