The Internship is the new entry-level position

In today’s competitive job market, it’s beginning to seem as if the internship is the new entry-level position.

The internship or co-op experience is important and helpful for students and graduates alike on a multitude of levels. Perhaps the most obvious would be the opportunity to get a glimpse into a possible future occupation. However, at a time in which our economy is perpetually in a volatile state and there are company-wide hiring freezes taking place, some recent college grads are foregoing the job search (or coming up empty handed) and adding another internship to their resumes.

In school, we are drilled on dates, theories, formulas, structure and form. However, we get less instruction in terms of the practicality and everyday employment of our skills. Business majors are taught to strive for a tangible end result measureable by growth of sales and productivity. For English, film, or journalism majors, success may lie more within the ability to reach an audience, relay information or perhaps entertain a readership. By giving oneself this glimpse into a real company within a desired industry of employment, students are able to make more informed decisions when searching for jobs post-graduation and provide themselves with some real-world experience.

For the past seven months, I have been interning with a major publishing and media outlet based here in Phoenix. As the time has passed and I began gaining more experience, I was shocked at how little I actually knew about the entire process of publishing a magazine. The physical act of writing an article is such a small part of the bigger picture. In fact, in the magazine industry, advertising, marketing and knowing one’s audience rules all.

In an article published on collegeplus.org about the benefits of an internship, the writer, Linnea Caswell, states, “According to NACE, (National Association of Colleges and Employers) responding employers indicated that while 31 percent of their new employees came from their own internship programs, 62 percent had internship experience of some kind.”  Furthermore, she writes, “Book learning can only do so much for a person’s career – hands on experience, whether it’s in the office or in the field, is vitally important to many employers.”

Think about it like this: when you get your driver’s license you must pass both a practical (driving/maneuverability) and a written test. Now apply that same logic to someone fresh out of college. A student may be able to fire off statistics, theories, dates, etc. or have a 4.0 GPA, but without any real-world experience, they could be left out in the dark.

Another aspect of the internship is building a network of professional contacts and establishing connections. Perhaps your internship doesn’t lead to a full-time position, but a strong letter of reference or an impressive resume might just be that final push you need to get through the door.

Ultimately, like anything, your internship experience might not be as beneficial, informative or eye-opening as you may hope; however, that’s not a bad thing either. Like I said earlier, you won’t know until you try. As my father says, “If you throw enough at the wall, eventually, something is going to stick.” That’s not to say that my dad enjoys chucking things through the living room wall in hopes that one might leech itself to the wallpaper, but if you’re always putting yourself out there, gaining experience and not being afraid of failure, success may be just around the corner.

Reach the reporter at Bkarris@asu.edu