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Internships Can Give You an Edge

Internships Can Give You an Edge

Peter Vogt MC Career Coach

If you’ve ever wondered if you should do an internship while you’re in college, here is a clear message for you that will help you make up your mind.

“As an employer, hiring someone right out of school can be somewhat daunting,” says Melissa Kinsey, senior account executive for Jackson-Dawson Integrated Marketing Communications in Greenville, South Carolina. “However, hiring someone right out of school who has had an internship can make the task a little easier.”

Why? Because employers can draw several important conclusions about you if you’ve participated in at least one internship, co-op program or similar experience during college.

You Probably Have the Right Stuff

Donn Pearlman was an award-winning news anchor and reporter at WBBM/CBS Radio in Chicago for 25 years before moving into his current position in public relations. He says there’s no comparison between a new college grad who has interned for a commercial radio station and one who has done some volunteering for a noncommercial college station.

“Almost anyone can get a position of some kind at a college station,” says Pearlman, senior managing director for ITQ-Minkus & Dunne Communications in Chicago. “After all, the station is there as an educational tool to help teach students about broadcasting. However, competition for jobs, even internships, at commercial stations in medium and large markets presumably is considerably tougher. So a resume that includes an internship at a commercial station may be one indicator to a potential employer that this candidate has the right stuff.”

You’re Truly Committed to Your Chosen Field

For all a prospective employer knows, you — a new grad applying for a job — might simply be testing the waters of a particular career field. Sure, you’re trying for the job, but how does the employer ensure you really want to work in the industry?

One way the employer can gauge your commitment is to see if you’ve done an internship in your field. “Employers who hire people with internship experience can be more sure they’re hiring people who know they want to be in the particular profession,” says Stephanie Specchio, director of communications at Elmira College in Elmira, New York. “Internship veterans aren’t trying to find the perfect fit. They’ve already done that as interns.”

“Usually, former interns have a better handle on what they’d really like to do,” adds Rosemary Reed, president of Double R Productions, a Washington, DC-based television production company. “I don’t want to spend a lot of time training an employee only to find out they now want to travel the world with a rock band.”

You Won’t Need Much Training and Hand-Holding

If you’ve got internship experience, you’ve already received some basic training in your field and thus have less of a learning curve facing you as a prospective new full-time employee, says Missy Acosta, media relations manager for Ackermann PR, a Knoxville, Tennessee-based public relations firm.

“In this age of fast-paced business environments, we want to make sure everyone gets up to speed as rapidly as possible,” stresses Acosta, who is also Ackermann’s internship manager. “That ramp is accelerated when someone is already experienced.”

Indeed, from an employer’s perspective, whenever two new college graduates are competing for the same job, the one who has internship experience will almost always have an advantage over the one who doesn’t. So if you’re wavering about whether to pursue an internship, do yourself a favor: Take the internship path to give yourself a competitive edge in the job market once you graduate.

“Measuring an internship-exposed student against a noninternship-exposed student can best be compared to the difference between a roll of film and a photograph,” says Errica Rivera, director of college relations at Nationwide, a Fortune 500 insurance and financial services company in Columbus, Ohio. “Both started out the same way — with potential. The difference is in the development.”