Do Internships Really Matter on Resumes or are They Just a Way to Get Your Foot in the Door?

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Seventeen years ago, I went to college unaware of the concept of an internship. Honestly, I didn’t learn about the importance of getting an internship until after my sophomore year, and even then, the significance placed on the real-world experience was minimal compared to today. It was something college students “should” do—not a requirement.

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Today, it seems internships have become an unspoken requirement of a college education. You can have a degree and be ranked at the top of your class, but if you haven’t completed an internship, you better get ready for a long and challenging job search.

More people are receiving bachelor's degrees

According to a recent study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, one contributing factor could be that the percentage of the population to receive a bachelors degree in the United States has increased by more than 30 percent, up from 1.2 million people in 2000 to more than 1.6 million today. The greater number of applicants with bachelors degrees, applying for the same jobs, makes the job market much more competitive.

Today, one of the best ways to set yourself apart is by completing one, or several, internships. NACE reported that approximately 63 percent of 2013 college graduates who took part in paid internships received at least one job offer.

LinkedIn recently conducted a study to learn which industries offer internships that are most likely to lead to paying, full-time jobs at the end of the internship. The study pulled information from the site’s 300 million members and included 65 industries.

Results showed the industry with the best odds of interns landing a full-time job is accounting, with firms boasting a 59 percent retention rate. The study also showed technical careers such as those in computer networking (47 percent) and semiconductors (40 percent) were also near the top of the list. The industries least likely to hire interns included nonprofit organization management and leisure and travel, both at 19 percent.

LinkedIn officials said students are the fastest growing user segment on the employment website.

“Youth unemployment is one of the most important challenges of our time. We hope to provide meaningful solutions in the near future,” according to LinkedIn representatives.

Internships have benefits

In a blog post about the importance of internships on http://www.students.org, writer Nick Rojas lists the following benefits of internships:

  1. Gaining Valuable Experience. Internships are a great way to gain real-world experience. Recruiters often seek out applicants with experience working in their field.

  2. Resume Booster. Demonstrating on your resume that you have experience through an internshi will make you stand out from the crowd of other candidates.

  3. Networking. Internships give students an opportunity to network with people in a given industry. These new contacts can lead to a full-time job after graduation.

  4. Opportunities For Hire. Internships are a great way to get your foot in the door to an organization. When positions open up, managers will likely first consider past interns who they have already trained and who are familiar with the company and work.

  5. Try Out A Field. It’s nearly impossible to know if you'll like working in a given industry until you actually work in that industry. An internship provides students with an opportunity to see if a particular field fits their desires and skill set.

Putting value on experience

While I was in the generation before obligatory internships, I did complete one that led to my first full-time job. I worked for three months for a daily newspaper and did everything I could during my time there to prove they needed me on their team—and it worked because I was offered a full-time job at the end of the internship.

While I was paid, I cannot put a value on what I gained from the experience. The first thing I learned was that the real world is much more difficult than a college classroom. I learned how to meet uncompromising deadlines, how to work with a team, how to show up with a positive attitude and do my very best work every day—all lessons that cannot be taught in the classroom. 

In today’s ultra-competitive job market, internships have become the new normal. An internship can help shape your career trajectory, expand your professional network and build your resume. And an internship just might give you the proof you need to demonstrate to an employer that you are worth the investment.

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