A client came to see me just before Christmas. He was a college sophomore looking for an internship. I asked where he wanted to be an intern. Without hesitating, he rattle off the three top companies in the field where he wants to work. He called me today to say that he’ll begin an internship with one of those companies this May. How did he do it? He studied the market and demonstrated that he had what the company was looking for. More importantly, he had enough faith in himself to try. Yes, college students and recent grads are in a tough job market. However, those who are smart in how they look for work can still be very successful. The first step is to look in the mirror and tell yourself: I can do it.
Citing a report by the New York Federal Reserve Bank, Think Progress examines the plight of recent college graduates who can only land low paying jobs. Ironically, some jobs that don’t require college degrees pay significantly more. The report does not deny that people with degrees have better work opportunities. What it notes is that more graduates are not enjoying opportunities they had in the past. As a country, we need to start paying attention to the kind of jobs that are being created in the current “recovery.” As more stories of college students falling through the economic cracks become prominent, especially when they are backed by data from the New York Fed, it’s logical to assume that some students will give up on college and give up on their future. Opportunity needs to be more than a political slogan.
I have had clients who benefitted greatly from internships. They worked for companies that offered good experience with a commitment to mentoring. Some of these internships were paid, some not. However, they all gave my clients hands-on experience that could be translated into their resumes. They also enabled my clients to be more confident during interviews because they had real workplace success stories.
Some internships do not advance your career. Recently one of my clients accepted an intense, three month internship that was unpaid. The company asked its interns to research and analyze potential customers. Then they made phone calls to set up appointments for the company’s sales team. The atmosphere at the company was pure boiler room: Work hard – work harder. At the end of her assignment, my client received a tepid letter of recommendation. She had no confidence that her supervisor would give her a good recommendation or even remember her name if an employer called. In essence, she was free labor for three months.
All internships are not the same. Before committing to an internship, you need to analyze what you will be giving the company and what you will be getting in return. If the work you perform will not let you learn new skills or give you resources to use on a resume or in an interview, think twice about taking the position. Don’t let someone take advantage of you. Walk away from a bad internship.