Do internships really make you more employable?

As a final year student, I get very frustrated when my graduate peers tell me that they can’t find a job because they don’t have experience. Many students nowadays are facing the same dilemma: “How can I get experience if I have no experience?”

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In today’s job market, skills and experience have become crucial to the recruitment process. As reported by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 95% of employers consider candidate experience a key factor in the hiring decision, and nearly half of them expect that experience to come from an internship. The same survey also reported that internships, not only make students more attractive candidates, but can also lead to an entry-level job. Consider these internship statistics from the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ (NACE) 2009 Experiential Education Survey:

  • 7% of 2007-08 interns were offered full-time positions.
  • 6% of these offers were accepted.
  • 3% of employers’ fulltime, entry-level college hires came from their internship programs.

Over the last forty years, much has been written regarding the benefit and value of internship programs. With benefits for employers and students, internships really are a win-win.

For students, internships are a great way to obtain valuable work experience in their industry, by seeing the things that they have been learning in class, put to action in a real life work situation with real live co-workers. They also enable students to experience a prospective career path and discover what niche of their field is a better fit for them than another. Additionally, internships allow students to build their network with professionals in their field, that is essential to landing future job opportunities.

For employers, on the other hand, interns are a valuable assets for a variety of reasons. First of all, interns represents a great source of highly motivated young professional to organisations to assist with special events and short-term projects. Internships programs are also the best way to build talented, young professional who fill positions and assist employers with fresh ideas and new skills.

An increasingly number of employers recognize the significant value of interns nowadays, and 51% of them are now focusing on relevant internship experience to find the right fit for their companies, while 81% of them recognise that new employees with relevant internship experience perform better than those without internships (CBI, 2013).

In a event industry context, Nick Adams, managing director at Sense, has recognised this and is now using interns as a way to develop home-grown resources. During an interview with the Event Magazine, he said that he takes on three interns per year, and generally appoints at least one as a full-time team member at the end of their internship. However, he warns against agencies who simply use interns as a cheap resource.

“You’ll get out of an intern what you put in. Making their time in a company worthwhile is incredibly important, and subjecting them to as many parts of your business and processes as possible will unlock their true abilities and demonstrate the value they can add back,” he says.

Similarly, Michael Chidzey, marketing director at agency Chilli Sauce, highlights to importance of making internships a win-win situation for both parties, where interns get the change to work on research tasks or side projects, and employers get the chance to discover the skill sets and strengths of future potential employers.

Most internships, however, are unpaid or only cover expenses. Therefore, most students, struggle to find the time and finances to take an internship. And this is definitely my case. Financial considerations are the main reason I haven’t taken an internship up to now. To most people, the idea of going to work every day and not being paid is unthinkable. And not in a vain way. It is simply because they can’t afford it!

The majority of students, therefore, choose to do a summer internships a couple of days a week, while doing menial jobs, such as bartending or waitressing, for the remaining time. This may preclude some from doing an internship, which may be frustrating when hoping to get a full-time job. For those who can’t afford summer internships, fortunately, the events industry offers a variety of volunteering opportunities, which are also a great way to gain experience and exposure to the work force, and are equally valued by employers.

To conclude, relevant and practical work experience is very important to break into certain industries, and events is one of these. There are several ways events students can obtain valuable work experience. Although internships are, perhaps, the most effective way, volunteering cannot be underestimated. It is really up to students to choose what better suits their time and finances, and to evaluate what works best in terms of helping them meet the requirements they will need when applying for a full-time job.

*Image courtesy of Luftphilia at Flickr.com

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