For students looking to land a full-time job right after college, internship experience has basically become non-negotiable—but they still don't guarantee a full-time job.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers found that 65.4% of one graduating class who held paid internships received job offers prior to graduation. A more recent study from the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University found that employers tend to hire roughly 50% of interns as full-time employees.
Four former interns recently shared how they set themselves up for employment success.
1. Get a head start
Many students will wait until their junior or senior years of college to consider applying for internships, but according to Matthew C. Pickett, a George Mason University graduate and current employee at the United States Department of State, starting even earlier is the way to go.
Pickett began interning at the Department of State as a teenager, the summer before he even began college. He returned to intern every subsequent summer and eventually scored a full-time offer.
Diana Barnes, a senior research analyst at EAB, says co-curricular major maps can get students thinking about internship opportunities from the moment they select their majors. Major maps lay out potential internships opportunities in each area of study so students can begin preparing right away.
Everything you need to know to build a co-curricular major map
2. Be your own salesperson
Teach your students to self-advocate. Megan Mullen, a student at Indiana University and a former intern at Visa, says simply reading from a resume won't cut it.
Encourage students to tell employers a personal story and to be honest about career goals and ambitions.
It could be time to revisit the career outcomes conversation
Gabriella Perez, a senior analyst at EAB, says student programs can help foster confidence in professional interactions, particularly among first-generation students. Programs like Hamilton College's First Year Forward program give students the opportunity to practice selling themselves.
More tactics to help students establish confidence in professional interactions
3. Get to know the employer
This step is important for landing an internship in the first place, since employers tend to hire interns who do their research beforehand.
But the same goes once students are actually in the internship—getting to know other employees and departments could help land students full-time offers.
When students get to know their employers, they also determine which opportunities will be most valuable. Schools can give students the skills to vet their own employers by teaching them to clarify exactly what it is they're looking for.
4. Pay your dues
Turning an internship into a job won't happen overnight—interns have to be patient.
Zane MacPhee, a graduate from Whitman College, explains how he initially thought interning for a minor-league baseball team once would lead to a job with a major-league team the next summer. Instead, he returned for three subsequent internships before this happened.
"I never knew it would take so much time and grunt work to get where I am," says MacPhee.
After all, gathering the right "professional ingredients" needed for a full-time role takes time. Career services boot camps that teach students professional skills could help speed up the process, but gaining real workplace experience requires hours on the job—or internship (Selingo, New York Times, 4/7).
How colleges can help get students go the "last mile" in preparing for jobs
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