Dispelling 3 Common Myths About Internships

Internship programs are good for both employers and interns when those programs are run with clear expectations and a structure that benefits both sides. Internship programs need to be designed in such a way that employers receive qualified interns. Simultaneously, programs should feed interns by honing their skills development, networking abilities and industry experience.

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Putting Employers and Interns in Alignment

Fortunately, interns and employers seem to be on the same page since over two-thirds of students are bringing at least one internship into the post-graduation job search; and over half of employers are really scrutinizing potential employee past internship experience when making hiring decisions.

However, some internships don’t always go as planned (or at all!) and often times, it is a result of an employer or student perpetuating an all too common myth about interns and internships.

Myth #1: Internships Mean Fetching Coffee

This one’s a huge myth for a few reasons. First off, internships are an opportunity to bring classroom knowledge to fruition by refining student skills in the professional world. Internships are designed to facilitate a learning experience and bring out the best in students under supervision from an intern manager or personal mentor. If internships were just fetching coffee and photocopying then there wouldn’t be much need for a supervisor, right?

Another reality that demonstrates that internships are far from an endless merry-go-round of errands is the fact that over half of paid internships lead to full-time job offers, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. To some extent employers feel like they’re vetting the next generation of professionals who will one day assume their place. Therefore, they take orientation, supervision, mentoring and training very seriously.

If you think that interns are hired to be your personal assistants, think again!

Myth #2: Unpaid Internships are Worthless

Maybe you don’t have any funds to take on an intern so you think offering a program is pointless. But you should know students regularly take unpaid internships – either because that internship is the one that’s tailor-made for their skills and experiences or it’s one that will get them necessary course credit to complete their major.

Furthermore, students can absolutely display an unpaid internship right alongside coursework, volunteer experience and paid internships on their resume or CV. Potential employers love to see evidence of ambition and experience. Student’s know that – and not all of them require financial earnings – so don’t let your bank account determine your willingness to take on an intern.

Myth #3: Summer Internships and Jobs are the Same

While summer jobs might offer students a way to supplement their incomes and defer some of their tuition and other college costs, summer internships offer a whole raft of opportunities ripe for the taking.

Summer internships fit snugly between students’ spring and fall sessions and allow them to build up their resumes, network and attend industry events (symposia, etc.), and receive the kind of supervision that ultimately works to improve their industry-related skills and future employability. Internships can also help that student earn course credit to graduate on time. Debating whether to call your opportunity a job or an internship? Ask yourself if there is a learning component. If the answer is yes, you may just have yourself an internship.

Three Ridiculously Simple Ways to Make an Impression

An internship is an awesome way to check a few things off of your list all at one go. You get real-world experience that you can transfer into the workplace (and potentially a job offer), the chance to network and get your name out there, and maybe even some course credits and compensation for your time.

The Dos and Don’ts of Internships

A lot of this, though, depends on looking the part and dressing for success. In addition to looking your best throughout your internship, you also need to strike the right balance between communicating your experience and remaining impressionable and open-minded to new information.

Dressing for Success

At times it can definitely be easier to know what not to do. By way of example, you’ve probably heard more than a few horror stories about the “Gilligan’s Island” intern: The straggler who shows up wearing open-toed sandals and a confused look that gives the impression they’ve spent too much time in the sun. Don’t let that be you.

You’ll want to pay attention to what everyone else around the office is wearing and dress accordingly, at least for your first few weeks.

When you’re not sure, make sure that you dress up rather than dressing down and declaring your own Casual Friday for the duration of the internship. It’s probably also best to avoid garish or flashy colors in favor of more staid, professional garb. Translation: Leave the Elton John and Lady Gaga impressions for Halloween.

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If we’re talking an internship at an upscale office, you’ll probably also want to leave the body piercings at home, and consider concealing tattoos until you’ve scoped out the situation and figured out that they’re acceptable to display on the internship (or not). Remember that it’s better to dress up rather than down and discretion is the better part of valor.

Communicate Appropriately

What do we mean by “appropriately” here? Basically, there are all different kinds of workplace cultures that you’ll likely encounter on your internships and throughout your own career. While they’re just qualitatively different and one’s not better than the other, workplace cultures can vary from nonchalant and laid-back to a little stuffy and based around traditional hierarchies.

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In the latter scenario you’ll want to use more professional forms of address – this could, as examples, be using “Mr.” or “Dr.” when addressing your supervisors. Just like the concept that it’s almost always better to lean on the professional side when it comes to dress code, going with professional forms of address is the best bet for the first week or until your supervisors give you the OK to be on a first-name basis from thereon out.

Ask Questions, Be Receptive

It’s also OK to ask questions right off the bat, as long as they’re done in a respectful way. The vast majority of internship supervisors will actually tell you that they’re not expecting you to know everything from Day 1 – if that were the case then they’d be the ringleader for a job fair rather than advising interns for the summer.

Still, make sure that you’re listening when your boss is talking to you and soak up everything like a sponge. Even better, carry around a notepad to jot down what you’re being told: This creates a much better rapport between you and your supervisor, shows that you’re serious about learning, and creates an impression of professionalism that your supervisor won’t soon forget.

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Along with dressing the part and avoiding terms like “bro” and “dude” in the workplace, asking researched questions can quickly put you one step ahead of the competition.

You Don’t Have To Be A Big Corporation To Have A Great Internship Program

Small businesses are the heart and soul of industry in the US today. In fact, did you know that over 99% of employer firms in the United States are actually small businesses?

That 99%-plus number corresponds to around 28 million small businesses in the United States operating today and over 18,000 companies with 500 or more employees.

Now, you often hear the presidential candidates talking about building jobs, small business and innovation, but what’s rarely discussed is how successful small businesses got that way?

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Small businesses can benefit greatly from internship program. 

Internship Programs Benefit Smaller Businesses Too!

Flipping on CNBC or Fox Business you’re bombarded with names of Fortune 500 companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft. All of these firms obviously employ interns and, indeed, interns turn into full-time employees more often than not.

The same benefits of hosting an internship program can be enjoyed by small- and medium-sized business owners from New York to Los Angeles.

Unique Benefits for Small Business

Internship programs are one of the most efficient ways of bringing in fresh talent that you wouldn’t otherwise cross paths with.

In a lot of ways, small businesses that host well-run internship programs have a leg up over small businesses that forgo internships since internships can provide much needed support year-round and supplement the manpower of your, perhaps understaffed, workforce.

Just like what might happen when interns join the ranks of salaried employees at larger corporations, interns bring a fresh perspective to the table and an open-mindedness in the workplace that might be in shorter supply than you’d like among your veteran employees.

Internships from a Student’s Point of View

Interns are putting their best foot forward every day because they’re trying to wring every ounce of experience and skills development from the internship program.

There’s less concern with opportunism or corporate jockeying with interns since it’s all about cultivating their current skills and broadening their professional horizons.

Whether or not the internship program is a paid one, interns are testing out whether their classroom learning is really up to snuff in that they’re applying more abstract skills in a real-world, professional environment.

As a benefit to employers, interns are frequently coming to your business completely up-to-date on industry best practices and eager to test their skills in a competitive workplace environment.

Reaping the Benefits You Need Today

And if you’re considering offering an intern a full-time position – because say, your intern really made an impression and distinguished herself with her enthusiasm, time management and professional skills – then you have another advantage as well.

Since interns are, relatively speaking, tabula rasa you can steer their career path in the direction that would most suit what your business is currently looking for.

So, if you need an intern with more of an accounting background – or one with more people skills in an “impersonal” profession like actuarial science – then you can foster those skills within the internship and set up your mentorship program accordingly.

Great for Interning Post-graduates

From the student’s and post-graduates’ perspective, internship programs are a chance to build up a resume full of experience, professional contacts and a list of potential letters of recommendation.

Contacts in the industry never hurt and finding out the most popular associations, symposia and continuing education opportunities is rarely a bad thing.

What we’re saying is that internships are so intrinsically incentivized for both interns and employers that it’s hard to say who benefits more!

Four Places to Look for an Internship

You’d be surprised how quickly April transitions into May and May turns into…a summer internship!

A lot of students needlessly freak out when they haven’t secured a summer internship months in advance, but it’s really nothing that should have you bolt upright screaming in your sleep. That’s what exams are for.

Where to Find an Internship

So you have your curriculum vitae and cover letter in hand and are totally ready to have those do the rounds.

Where, though, do you send those things to land the internship of your dreams? How do you ever determine what the internship of your dreams is?

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As you’ll see as we run through our list, the answers to those questions boils down to doing your research, networking efficiently and knowing what you really want out of a summer internship experience. To start:

LinkedIn

Since its inception over a decade ago, LinkedIn has grown into the largest professionally geared social networking site around.

This means that LinkedIn is a great resource to draw upon in order to do more research into the fields and internships that most spark your interest while also shoring up a few potential letters of recommendation.

To get the most out of your profile – oh, by the way, spend some time creating a profile that reflects your experiences, educational background, previous internships (not essential…but helpful), and career goals – make sure that it’s seen by all of your professional contacts.

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On your end, you can use that growing list of contacts to reach out to professionals working within the industry in general or your dream internship in particular. When using LinkedIn to search for internships, you can use the jobs tab up top and type in the specific type of internship that you’re looking for. Be ready to send over your resume!

National Internship Search Engines

Your career counseling office likely maintains a nationwide database of internship opportunities, some of which may be offered specifically to students at your college. Start by searching this database.

Big sites like internships.com can also be useful resources for you to tap into when you’re beginning your search for a summer internship. Internships.com has been around since 2010 and what’s really useful about this site is that it aggregates over 100,000 internship positions and streamlines your ability to network with professionals in the field.

Internships.com actually has an extremely useful networking feature that lets you see which of your Facebook contacts are in the industry or working for the particular company that’s trawling for eligible interns.

Bridge.jobs

If you are looking for an internship in Rhode Island, then bridge.jobs is a great place to start your search. On the bridge.jobs’ site it’s just as easy to search for internships in your field – you just type in the internship experience that you’re interested in (e.g., communications internship) and go from there. It’s really that easy and it works for current undergraduate students as well as college grads looking for additional work experience…and maybe a stipend on the side.

 

Your Professors

Your favorite professors can actually be a huge wellspring of contacts – within and outside the university setting and in everything from publishing to career specialists. Consider scheduling an appointment with a favorite professor, sending a thank-you email, and popping off that CV!

When you find that perfect internship you feel it in your heart. It’s the chance that you’ve been waiting for to turn your passion into making a real-world impact, and perhaps a career stepping stone to boot.

Summer internships especially are an opportunity for you to take the training wheels off and see how your college major links up with what goes on in the workplace. This can be exciting, challenging, interesting and frustrating…sometimes all at once. You can rest assured that it’ll be a learning experience that lets you know you’re cut out for the field and capable of networking with practicing professionals.