College students or recent graduates eager to break into their first job in sales often need more than a diploma and a sparkling grade-point average to get a decent first job. That’s not to say that grades don’t matter, but students who have spent their summers interning and learning about the professional world often have a competitive advantage.
Internships build a résumé, and they often can lead to full-time employment. As Jacquelyn Smith reports for Forbes: “69 percent of companies with 100 or more employees offered full-time jobs to their interns in 2012,” according to a survey by internships.com.
Here’s a look at how internships can help put young professionals on a successful path:
It gets your foot in the door: It sounds like a cliché, but it’s true. An internship establishes you as a contributor. A lower-level contributor, sure, but having that introduction to the company can help down the line. You have the opportunity to learn and to show what you’ve already learned. By developing a working relationship with professionals, and impressing them with your work ethic, office demeanor and overall skills, you may get a leg up on a full-time job in the future, even if it’s not your first step after college. Good interns will be remembered, and supervisors will keep tabs on them as they enter the business world. When a job opens up, they may be at or near the top of the list.
Confidence: Interns should be nervous on their first day. They might as well have a huge question mark floating over their heads — old-cartoon-style — with all the things they don’t know about what to expect, who they will be dealing with and what they will learn. It’s what Pete Leibman of Idealize Enterprises calls the “fear of the unknown” about the professional world. But that’s OK. As they get into the groove of the internship and learn the basics, those nerves will hopefully lessen. And when the internship is over, the experience gained will help their confidence in their first “real” job.
Networking: When interns are over the initial wide-eyed, shaky-voiced introduction, their confidence and eagerness to learn should help with networking. Ken Keeley, executive director of the Career Opportunities Center at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business, tells Bloomberg Businessweek that interns should start out slow. “Don’t start at the top of the food chain,” he says. “Network with people who can still identify with where you are as a student intern.” Those connections may be of enormous use as you enter the workforce.
Internships get results: A Harris Interactive study, as reported by Time, shows that more than 80 percent of employers want internship experience from new hires. Yet only 8 percent of students say interning is “something they spend a lot of time doing.” Among those who do have major internships, the study shows that 58 percent of unpaid interns say they’re ready for the workplace, and 70 percent of paid interns say the same. For those who don’t intern, it’s just 44 percent.