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The Ins and Outs of Internships

If you’re looking to make the transition from final exams to full-time employee, an internship with a solid company could be the perfect stepping-stone. In fact, internships are fast becoming an integral part of the college experience. According to a 2006 survey from Vault.com, 84 percent of students planned to complete an internship by the time they graduated. Fifty-three percent of students surveyed expected to complete two or more internships by the time they earned their diploma. In a tough job market, one way to distinguish yourself from the pack is to take advantage of this fast-emerging practice. The following tips can help you find the right internship, make the most of your time there, and learn how to fit an unpaid stint into your budget.

What Do You Do in an Internship?
In the best internships, you do much more than fetch coffee, photocopy, and file. A recent New York Times article about internships points out that interns are accepting more responsibilities and tackling more exciting projects than ever before. For example, interns at Texas Instruments collaborate with engineers on the development of new products.

Many companies are increasingly eager to give their interns more challenging job responsibilities. Why? Because they’ve started to view interns as potential full-time employees. The internship serves as a grooming ground for young students, both giving them the skills they need to land jobs and ensuring that the most talented stay with the companies. Moreover, the Vault survey also reports that approximately 64 percent of student interns receive job offers from the companies with which they intern.

Even if your chosen company is unable to offer you a full-time position when your internship ends, you still should have gained valuable experience. You may have developed relationships with people in your industry, or gained skills that you can transfer to a job at a new company.

How to Find a Good Internship?
Keep these tips in mind to ensure that your internship is helpful and enriching:

Can You Afford an Internship?
Internships are definitely a great way to show employers that you can handle the rigors of real-world work. But what if you can’t afford to work for free for an entire summer? Are you doomed to go internship-less? Luckily, you may not. A variety of internship options are available that shouldn’t leave you subsisting on ramen noodles and living in a squat from June to September. Most employers offer internships for either an hourly wage or college credit hours. Vault reports that 64 percent of student interns are paid for their work. If you cannot find an internship that pays, you can still earn credit hours toward your degree, either freeing up time in later semesters for a part-time job or allowing you to graduate earlier. You might also consider taking out a larger student loan than usual to pay for your summer living expenses. This might sound unappealing, but remember that an internship can be an investment in your future salary. Rather than living and working somewhere expensive like New York City, consider choosing an internship in a city with a lower cost of living or where you could save on rent by living with relatives.

A 2007 article in the Christian Science Monitor points out that the sacrifices internships require often pay off. Jeannie Vanasco found an unpaid internship at a well-known literary magazine, which allowed her to work in a creative environment and paved the way to paid work as a book reviewer. Brian Feldman had to pay for college credits he did not need in order to work as an unpaid intern for The Daily Show, but once his internship ended, he received a paid position.

Join the Ranks of Famous Interns
If you still worry that your summer vacation time might be better spent on the beach or at the golf course, remember that some of the most famous and successful people in the country began their careers as interns. Oprah might never have built her media empire if she had not interned at a television station in Nashville, Tennessee. Her internship led to a job as a news anchor. Clothing designer Betsey Johnson established her signature eclectic style while interning at Mademoiselle magazine. She used discarded fabric from the magazine’s fabric library to make her clothes. Filmmaker Spike Lee was an intern for Columbia Pictures. Other famous and successful interns include Donald Trump, Stephen Spielberg, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Madeline Albright. Will your name be next on the list?

Publish date: July 10, 2008