What Is an Internship? Benefits, How to Get One

What is an internship? An internship, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, is a type of experiential learning that combines classroom knowledge and theory with real-world application and skill development in a professional context.

Internships allow students to obtain significant applied experience and develop contacts in professional sectors they are interested in pursuing as a career path, while also allowing employers to coach and assess talent.

It is a planned and supervised professional experience that a student receives academic credit for while working for an approved agency. It is directed by learning objectives and overseen by academic and agency staff.”

what is an internship

What is an internship?

An internship is a short-term work experience provided by businesses and other organizations for people—usually students, but not always—to get entry-level experience in a certain sector or profession. It's as much effort as it is a learning experience. Interns should spend their time working on relevant projects, learning about the topic, building relationships in the business, and honing both hard and soft skills. Internships can lead to full-time employment opportunities in some cases.

Summer internships generally last 10 to 12 weeks and require 40 hours per week. Internships in the fall and spring vary, although they are nearly usually part-time. Some are compensated. Some of them aren't. We'll go into it further later.

Why are internships important?

As an intern, you will have the opportunity to work alongside established industry experts and gain a clear understanding of what an entry-level position entails. You'll not only get real-world experience, but you'll also get to meet and learn from professionals. And you'll begin to form your own network, which will include everyone from your fellow interns to seasoned leaders.

An internship also gives you the opportunity to figure out what you don't want to do, which is a less visible but equally significant benefit. When it comes to job hunting, it can be tough to know where to begin. Internships allow you to test out a few different things without committing to anything. If you're lucky, you'll come upon something you enjoy. If not, you'll at least have a better idea of what doesn't work for you. The more information you have to work with when it comes to something as difficult as choosing the proper career, the better.

Employers want to see internships on resumes as they have become increasingly prevalent. Applicants with prior job experience have a significant advantage over those with only relevant schooling. Internships allow you to not only develop applicable skills and gain knowledge about a profession, but also to show those talents and industry knowledge on the job. Nothing replaces real-world experience for most companies, even those who are experts at recruiting young grads.

Internships are often used by companies as a talent pipeline to fill full-time employment. Internships are a variety of things for employers: a long interview, a training program, and (often) a clever strategy to fill available positions. As a result, some college seniors may enter their senior year with employment offers in hand (and therefore have a much less stressful last year at school).

In other words, internships may help you find out what you want to accomplish with your career and make it simpler to obtain your first full-time job in that field.

Paid vs. Unpaid Internships

The amount of money provided to interns varies greatly depending on the sector. Tech and finance pay well, but journalism, fashion, and nonprofits in general pay little (or not at all). According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), 56.7% of graduating seniors in 2017 had a paid internship, while 43.3% had an unpaid internship.

Interns usually do not receive the same health or other benefits as full-time employees because they are temporary employees. However, depending on the sector and size of the firm, it may give benefits ranging from a few social events or vacation days to relocation and housing assistance.

That is the case with paid internships. Let's talk about the ones who aren't compensated. People should be compensated for their efforts, which is a rather uncontroversial position. Fortunately, the law—specifically, the United States' Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)—agrees. Usually.

Unpaid internships?

So, why are there unpaid internships? Unpaid internships, in principle, are primarily learning opportunities rather than job experiences. Courts have utilized a seven-point criteria developed by the Department of Labor to distinguish between an employee (or paid intern) and a lawfully unpaid intern in for-profit businesses. Essentially, in order for an unpaid internship to be legal, you must profit more than the employer. According to the FLSA fact sheet, unpaid interns who "[volunteer] without expectation of pay" are typically acceptable in the public sector and charities.

All that being said, some non-profit and for-profit organizations provide unpaid internships that, um, go dangerously close to the line (or cross them). Some sectors are known for not paying (or underpaying) interns while simultaneously needing internships to get a foot in the door for full-time entry-level positions. People who cannot afford unpaid internships, of course, not only miss out on great learning opportunities, but also have a harder time breaking into the profession as a whole.

Don't give up if you're interested in a field where unpaid internships are prevalent, but working for free for a summer or semester isn't a possibility. Check with your university's career office as well as relevant academic departments, institutes, and centers on campus to see if there are any grants or other programs you can apply for to help you support yourself while gaining the necessary job experience.

Part-time vs. Full-time Internships

Why do employers want short-term and long-term interns?

Short-Term or Part-Time

Internships offer companies with low-cost (and often even free) labor for low-level office chores such as photocopying, filing, rudimentary spreadsheet work, and report authoring. Many companies may hire interns for a few weeks or months to help with the execution of a significant project or event.

This is beneficial to students because it allows them to build and demonstrate project management, problem-solving, and client relationship management abilities. Even if the internship is just for a few weeks, it may provide you with a variety of transferrable skills as well as opportunities to network and make key contacts in the field. It also looks excellent on your resume.

Long-Term or Full-Time

Internships are a popular way for employers to advertise their graduate programs to students.

According to surveys, over half of all graduate employers recruit at least 20% of their former interns for training programs.

Graduates are likely to return to the organization that recruited them as an intern for full-time work following graduation.

Employers benefit from hiring ex-interns once they graduate since these graduates are familiar with the firm and the work they will be performing. Ex-interns require less training than new hires, saving both time and money.

Benefits of an Internship

Internships give a variety of benefits to a new graduate. Use internships to advance your field of study, gain real-life experience in a particular field, and learn about the inner-workings of company culture. Internships give students a chance to use their education and begin their future careers.

It is not uncommon for companies to offer their intern a full-time position after a successful internship. Many businesses utilize internships as a trial period before deciding whether or not to hire someone on a permanent basis. As a result, it's critical that you make a strong first impression; arrive on time, be passionate, and demonstrate your adaptability, flexibility, and dedication.

Internships do produce jobs for graduates, according to the findings of a recent survey performed by Graduate Advantage. It was discovered that 81% of interns are now employed, with 74% of those in permanent positions or on long-term contracts. 68% percent feel their internship helped them get their present job, while a whopping 33% are still employed by their internship provider.

Student interns should expect to gain valuable experience in the following ways:

  • To get real-world experience and contribute to the company's success.
  • Having a mentor who can offer advice, feedback, receptivity, and professionalism.
  • To obtain knowledge and expertise in a specific subject.
  • To make professional connections.
  • To get access to senior management.

How to Find an Internship

Here are some tips to help find an internship.

Make use of the resources available on campus

If you're a student, visit the career center on campus to learn how to attend job fairs and participate in on-campus recruitment. Your university may also have employment boards for students. These employers are searching for students from your school especially! Use that academic link to your advantage, and take advantage of how handy it is for companies to come to you.

Scour the internet

As you might expect, there are several resources available online which offers job and internship ads as well as business profiles to help you learn more about companies and their cultures.

Because searching for internships online may be overwhelming, it's important to have a general concept of what you're looking for, such as "product management internship" or "editorial internship." It may seem paradoxical, but the more you restrict your search, the easier it will be to handle. You may always be open to new possibilities as the process progresses, but start with a specific objective in mind.

Look at your favorite companies

Everyone has a few of fantasy businesses they'd like to be part of. If you're not sure what type of internship you want to do, another option is to do some research about the firm first. Go to the website of the firm you want to work for and check what type of internship programs and possibilities they have. Apply if you discover one that seems like a good fit. After all, one of the primary advantages of an internship is that it may assist you in determining what you want to do after graduation.

Customize your cover letter and resume

It's best to customize your student resume and internship cover letter for the job you want. Always customize your job search assets.

How Do I Apply for an Internship?

Because competition for internships is typically fierce, especially in fields like law, finance, journalism, and consulting, the application procedure for an internship can be lengthy and thorough.

When should I begin applying for jobs?

Start looking for an internship at least six months in advance. Firms will have recruiting drives at various times throughout the year, so keep track of when the internship recruitment campaigns for companies you're interested in start.

Internships with a formal application procedure will have rigorous deadlines; familiarize yourself with these programs' recruiting cycles.

The majority of students will do an internship in their latter years of university since it enhances their chances of getting a job offer after the internship. However, it is becoming more usual for students to complete internships during their first summer to gain early job experience.

What are the requirements for internship programs?

Depending on the firm, the qualifications for candidates will differ. Some companies will ask you to fill out an online application, while others will hire you in the same manner they would for a permanent position.

Some businesses may demand transcripts of your qualifications and letters of recommendation, so allow enough time to gather the necessary paperwork before the deadline. Your resume/CV and cover letter should also be polished and suited to the position you're looking for, as well as in the format specified.

Follow up once the papers have been emailed to ensure that they were received.

Certain companies may need you to attend an assessment center, perform a psychometric exam, or engage in an interview as part of their hiring process. Others will make their decision based on a resume and cover letter.

How to apply to internships

You can apply for an internship in one of two ways. You may either go through classified ads or send out speculative applications to firms that interest you. College students should get themselves into the job market as soon as they can.

In either case, you should put together a solid application that:

  • Demonstrates your relevant knowledge, abilities, and passion for the internship.
  • Describe the value you can provide to the firm.
  • Describes why you're interested in working for the company.
  • Demonstrates the main skills the firm is looking for in an intern.
  • Get your resume/CV targeted to the company you want to work for.

If you haven't updated your resume/CV in a while or have never written one before, now is the time to get started.

what is an internship

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author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), NCDA Certified Career Counselor (CCC), and general career expert. Patrick has completed the NACE Coaching Certification Program (CCP). And has been published as a career expert on Forbes, Glassdoor, American Express, Reader's Digest, LiveCareer, Zety, Yahoo, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, SHRM.org, Process.st, FairyGodBoss, HRCI.org, St. Edwards University, NC State University, IBTimes.com, Thrive Global, TMCnet.com, Work It Daily, Workology, Career Guide, MyPerfectResume, College Career Life, The HR Digest, WorkWise, Career Cast, Elite Staffing, Women in HR, All About Careers, Upstart HR, The Street, Monster, The Ladders, Introvert Whisperer, and many more. Find him on LinkedIn.

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