By Lindsey Pollak
This week’s post is a Q&A session with Nate Whitson from Intern Match. As you’ll see, Nate shares some valuable tips and pointers on getting, keeping and making the most of internships.
The value and importance of internships have changed in many ways over the last 10 years. First, internship experience has evolved from simply a resume booster to essentially a pre-requisite for landing an entry-level job.
Second, the popularity has increased. In fact, the number of internships taken by students has increased over 8-fold in the last 10 years, and internships are now the #1 way in which employers are hiring students.
Because of this increase in importance, internships have become much more competitive in the past decade. Career changers, graduate students and even high school students all compete for the same positions. This means that looking for positions early and often in college is essential.
2. A lot of recent grads are taking unpaid internships after they graduate. Can you discuss this trend and whether you think this is a good choice for a recent grad who can’t find a full-time, paid position?
In the current economy, recent graduates are having a hard time finding jobs and are willing to do just about anything to get a foot in the door. At the same time, other employees who are being laid off are trying to break into new industries — and at times are offering their services as unpaid interns. This means businesses are seeing applications from a variety of qualified candidates who are willing to work for free.
There are a lot of problems with this. Unpaid internships can be exploitative, and they exclude those students and graduates who need to support themselves with a wage. They are also illegal in some circumstances.
That being said, considering an unpaid internship as a recent grad depends on the individual and the opportunity. For example, some non-profits or startups simply cannot afford to pay, but offer a highly educational experience that may be worth taking (in fact until this year, White House internships were unpaid). My recommendation is to keep an open mind, but be cautious of organizations looking to exploit over-eager job seekers. Part-time unpaid opportunities are frequently a better decision.
3. What are some ways to get the most out of an internship?
The first step of any internship is proving your salt – turn work in on time, keep a positive and professional attitude, and make yourself a valued member of the team.
Throughout the internship, develop a broad understanding of how the organization works, what skills different employees have that make them valued, and talk to your co-workers about their jobs and how they got there. Networking is more powerful when combined with a sincere interest in your co-workers’ career paths. Also, focus in on learning industry-specific software tools, like Salesforce for a sales internship, or QuickBooks for an accounting internship. This experience is something that is not taught in school.
4. How can people turn an internship into a full-time job?
Turning an internship into a job is a matter of proving your commitment to the organization and going the extra mile — even on small tasks (all organizations have grunt work, and showing that you are committed regardless of the task helps prove that you are indispensible).
Also, staying in touch with your boss after the position is over is a great way to convert internships into jobs. Connect with co-workers on LinkedIn, try to assist the organization in finding their next intern and write a positive article or blog post in your school newspaper or department blog about the experience.
5. Can you share some tips and tricks about the intern hiring process?
Having a great resume is essential. You can view our sample internship resume here, and know that highlighting past work experiences in a quantitative manner helps a resume standout.
Getting hired also means marketing yourself. Develop a professional persona that you use in all of your applications. Create a LinkedIn account that includes a professional picture. Make this picture the same as your Facebook picture (as long as it’s professional), and print out business cards.
The easiest and most often overlooked tactic that makes a major difference in the hiring process is following-up. Send a kind follow-up email the day after your interview. If it was an in-person interview, send a hand-written “thank you” note. Small personal touches will make you stand out.
Thank you to Nate for answering my questions today. What additional questions do you have about internships?