Everywhere I have worked, I have supported internship programs.
Interns are usually the lowest paid employees in the company, yet they are well-educated and highly motivated. They’re not interested in getting promoted and they’re not around long enough to get caught up in office politics and drama. And often interns bring technology knowledge and other skills that are lacking in the rest of the organization.
I am not a fan of unpaid internships. I believe that if you’re asking interns to do a task, they should be paid. But there are companies that do not share this belief. And in fact, some of the most prestigious internship programs are unpaid.
The opportunity to work for a company as an intern is hard to quantify, but if you have the opportunity, I suggest you make the most of it.
Benefits of Internships for Students
Gain actual work experience. The one thing recent graduates typically lack when they start looking for that first “real” job is experience. While an internship may not entirely replicate a true working environment, it is a good proxy. And an internship does provide the chance to work in an office environment with other employees. This benefits not just your resume, but your experience base as well.
Learning specific skills. Depending on the department where you do the internship, you may very well gain specific skills. Whether it’s in the form of technology, accounting, or something industry-specific, make sure to take whatever it is you learn and understand how to describe and utilize that skill in your full-time role.
Build relationships with employers. The primary driver of success in business is relationship building. New opportunities both internally and externally come your way through the people in your network. And because internships are select, those individuals tend to get even greater access to the managers and leaders in an organization than do the regular employees.
Earn college graduation credits. In some situations, you may actually earn graduation credit in an internship. You’ll probably have a faculty advisor assigned and you may need to write a paper or give a presentation, but it’s worth it.
Earn an Income. And lastly, of course it’s even better if you can find an internship that pays you something. But don’t limit yourself only to paid internships. Find something that you’re interested in and make the finances work in any way you can.
Benefits of Internships for Employers
Lower cost employees. As I said earlier, interns are usually some of the lowest paid employees in a company. Most are happy to get the experience, but I do recommend a paid internship program rather than an unpaid one. I would hate to miss out on some super qualified individuals simply because you were being cheap.
Resources to work on special projects. Most companies get into a pattern where they hire the minimum number of employees to get the job done. They maximize efficiency. The problem is that doesn’t leave any resources to work on special projects. An internship program is perfect. Interns are resources that aren’t already allocated to a specific activity and as such, they are free to work on other things. The other benefit of this approach is that it increases the desirability of being an intern. Interns are not just doing the same thing as other employees. They work on special projects.
Build relationships and evaluate future employees. In a competitive hiring environment, it helps that an intern already knows what it’s like to work for the company. Which is another reason it’s a good idea to give interns fun things to work on. And in a weaker job market, an internship can essentially serve as an extended interview. This will give you ample opportunity to evaluate the intern and decide how they’ll work as a full-time employee.
As a student, the benefits of an internship are clear with the only possible drawback I see being short-term monetary gain. An internship that pays well is a no-brainer. But an internship that doesn’t pay much or anything at all may require more consideration. If you find yourself in a situation with a great no-pay internship and need money, consider taking a side or weekend job.
And as an employer, the benefits are even more clear cut. If your company doesn’t have an internship program, you should seriously consider organizing one. It will be more than worth your effort.
Readers, have you participated in an internship program either as an intern or as an employer? I would love to hear more about the projects that were assigned to the interns.
Martin - Get FIRE'd asap says
I reckon the biggest advantage of being an intern is getting some experience working in a real-life workplace. Getting to grips with dealing with many different personalities and levels is something you can’t learn until you are there. It’s also the opportunity to build working relationships that could see you land you first real job without competing against the masses.
I agree that interns should be paid. If they are at no cost to the company then it’s easy to see them as just slaves who will get the most meaningless talks because the company doesn’t perceive any value to themselves. And my advice to any intern, know when you are being taken advantage of and do something about it.View Comment
Financial Slacker says
Thanks for your comment, Martin. I agree, the social interaction of a work environment differs from anything you may experience in school. An internship provides a great chance to begin learning how to navigate that world.View Comment