For our generation, internships are more important than ever

By Rachel Walman

(Nazareth College/ Flickr)
(Nazareth College/ Flickr)

The first time I heard about internships was the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of high school, and my mom sat me down and told me I had to start building my resume for college and beyond. I, of course, thought she was being ridiculous, rolled my eyes, but agreed to start looking into something over the summer on top of my job as a junior sailing instructor.

While true that my first internship was unpaid – nothing more than filing folders in alphabetical order and copying receipts at my local pediatrician’s office – I slowly began to understand why the experience was so important. I began to grasp why so many colleges and future employers judged students on whether they undertake one or not.

Jeffrey Selingo, author of There Is Life After College, says that “internships are now a critical cog in the recruiting wheel for Fortune 500 companies and many smaller companies, too. Today employers hire as full-time workers around 50 percent of the interns who had worked for them before they graduated, according to the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University.” Selingo also says that “At large companies … the share of interns who get full-time offers is growing every year, and closer to 75 percent at several of them.”

I know most of you have known for a long time that internships are important for resume-building, and it’s becoming more well-known and obvious now that they are almost a necessity for landing a job before and after graduation. Even if you don’t particularly want to have a job for the company or location that you intern at, the connections you make while networking as an intern can open more doors for you.

Yes, this does sound like repeated information, but that’s a good thing. I know that it took me some prodding and encouragement before I actually took the reins and began to make things happen for myself. Being an adult is hard. But once you’ve gotten into the mindset of doing things for yourself, maintaining that self-discipline will take you far.

Unfortunately, it is true that boring internships do exist. You may find yourself clutching an iPad, desperately asking customers or visitors to take surveys, you may find yourself endlessly faxing and filing for six-plus hours a day and you may find yourself wishing that you were doing anything other than this right now.

It is also true, however, that internships are not only for learning how a specific company functions. If you are active, curious and eager, people will notice. It may just be that those are the people who will write your recommendations, or connect you with their friends who work at the place you actually want to be.

Selingo ends his story by reassuring us that the central point of an internship is to discover and learn things for and by yourself. If we have control and make the right decisions during this important time, transfer the knowledge we gain (both from college and the workplace), then we’re on the path to success.

Rachel Walman is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]