For many recent college graduates, post-campus life has turned out to be no fun. They may have thought there would be little problem getting jobs in their chosen careers after they earned their degrees. But, in the middle of a spirit-crushing recession, their psyches have been served a dollop of disillusionment.
Colleges are facing heavy pressure today to better prepare their students to transition to the workforce. That pressure is justified given the cost of a college education today. (As the parent of a college student, I know this all too well.) And that's why many schools and students see the potential value internships can have in giving students an edge after graduation.
Businesses apparently recognize that too. More than three-quarters of employers that responded to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) said they prefer to hire people who have relevant work experience from internships.
The key phrase here is "relevant work experience," which means your internship needs to be more than just making copies and coffee, and fetching lunch for other workers.
If you're in college, recently graduated, or looking to do an internship as part of a midlife career change, here are three things you need to ask yourself about an internship opportunity:
- Will the internship give me experience similar to what I want to be doing in my first (or next) job?
- Will it give me valuable skills I can use in any job? For example: Proficiency in new software, navigating office politics, learning to work on a team-based project, organizing my workload, etc.
- Will I be working with seasoned professionals who can mentor me, perhaps teach me something about working in the business that I didn’t learn in school?
Be prepared to find out the answers during—if not before—your interview. Then, after you complete the internship, take stock of what you learned and document your newfound experience, skills, and accomplishments on your resume. It doesn’t matter that you were paid peanuts (or nothing at all) as long as you gained the “relevant work experience” employers want to see.
Did an internship help prepare you for your career? Tell us how in a comment below.
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