Internships: To Accept or Not Accept?

Undergraduate college students are faced with the constant battle of striving to be the best, and when it comes to how to spend summer break, the talk of internships slowly emerges from winter hibernation. (flazingo_photos/Flickr)

It's almost summer and although this should exude feelings of freedom and happiness, the recurring pressure of stockpiling resumes is right around the corner.

Undergraduate college students are faced with the constant battle of striving to be the best, and when it comes to how to spend summer break, the talk of internships slowly emerges from winter hibernation. Many internships nowadays are unpaid, and solely for learning hands-on experience in a field of person’s interest. This makes the decision between potentially working a part time job at home or taking a full time internship very difficult, especially when there are multiple years before graduation to seize these opportunities.

An article by Time Magazine published in the fall of 2013 analyzed job markets and the reasons companies aren’t hiring new college grads. In the article, a study by the Workforce Solutions Group at St. Louis Community College found that more than 60 percent of employers said that candidates lacked “communication and interpersonal skills,” also referred to as soft skills.

Applicants may have known how to navigate computer programs or do the technical work required for the job, but no interpersonal proficiencies were visible. Part of this lack of communication skills could be attributed to the current technological age, one where young people are constantly texting and “snap chatting” each other and can barely hold a conversation in person. An internship before graduation could help close this gap, giving young adults the work environment and professional experience needed to grasp jobs in the future.

There is a monumental difference in the job increasing statistics of an unpaid internship versus a paid internship. An article from the Forbes website published in July of 2012 found that if you are a college graduate working at a paid internship, 60 percent of the time the internship will transition into a full time job offer. However, for unpaid internships, the chance of getting a job offer was 37 percent, which is only 1 percent higher than the general population of college graduates with no internship experience.

This is a perfect representation of the saying “you get what you pay for.” When companies are more willing to spend money on interns, it could signify that they are more invested in the work they allocate to these interns. The National Association of College and Employers (NACE) executive director Marilyn Mackes substantiates this idea, stating that paid interns tend to get better job offers because they are doing more hands-on professional work rather than secretarial, inconsequential tasks.

If a student has the choice between a paid or unpaid internship, it is evident that a paid internship is the one to take. Employers treat paid interns as regular employees, often giving them specific responsibilities and staying up to date with their work. There should not be as much social pressure on young adults to obtain multiple internships, especially if students have more than one year before graduating with a bachelor’s degree.

One internship experience is enough to considerably increase the chances of being offered a full time job. Timing is essential, and if the opportunity for an internship arises at least once before graduation it should be grasped.

Even after graduation, seeking an internship if the job search is not successful can be particularly beneficial. Stuart Lander, the chief marketing officer at Internships.com, has found that “…At a time when 54 percent of recent graduates are unemployed or underemployed, the best chance you have as a student not to be part of that statistic is to do an internship. You have a seven in 10 chance of being hired by the company you interned with.” The statistics from his statement were compiled from a survey conducted in the winter of 2012, which polled more than 7,000 students and over 300 human resources and recruitment professionals.

Internships may not be for everyone, but they certainly are tailored to make it much easier for young people to secure a career early in life. If that intern position you really wanted was unavailable this summer, have no fear, because positions are constantly increasing in many different sectors.

Even after graduation there will still be chances for the test drive of a potential career. Never put the possibility of an internship out of your mind, because they will always be around.