Are internships necessary?
July 30, 2007 4:18 PM   Subscribe

Are internships really as important to success as my school makes them out to be?

I'm getting closer and closer to graduation, and several school officials have expressed to me that they wish me to get an internship before graduation. That's all well and good, but first, I really don't have time for one between full-time school and full-time work (which I've told them). Second, a good half of the internships that they're trying to hook me up with aren't paid internships.

Another mitigating factor is that I already have a job in my field of study (business administration, concentration in human resources), so I'm getting experience.

I figure the college has a deal with these companies where, "we get you cheap/free labor, you give us money or stuff," so I'm a bit wary. They make it seem like if I don't do an internship, I'll never get anything more than an entry level job, ever (yes, I've told them my current job situation).

Anyway, bottom line is, are internships really necessary for success? In my situation, is real-world, full-time job experience in my field good enough (or better)? Thanks in advance.
posted by Verdandi to Education (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Since you already have a job, no. BUT if you're trying to move to another company, you may want to intern for them?
posted by k8t at 4:21 PM on July 30, 2007

Good experience is necessary.

"Internships" not only aren't a necessary source of good experience, they're inferior (in my opinion) to regular jobs that can impart significant experience and demand significant responsibility.

The problem is that it is pretty tough for someone who has yet to graduate to find a regular job that meets that requirement, whereas most internships are designed to be constructive for a resume.

If you've got such a job, you're ahead.
posted by MattD at 4:39 PM on July 30, 2007

An internship is essentially just a job. Like all jobs, it provides training, experience, and opportunities. So, if you already have a job, the question you should be asking yourself is whether the internships that the school is offering are better overall than the job you already have. If your current job is paid and the school's internships aren't, that's a big vote against the internships, but it's not necessarily the only factor. I would also consider the relevance of the job/internship to your future career, and the types of opportunities that the job/internship provides access to.
posted by blue mustard at 4:50 PM on July 30, 2007

It sounds like you're set, considering you already have a job in the field. The one thing that might make it worth looking into though is if you can intern somewhere that would be "above" your current position, say with a really renowned company.
posted by drezdn at 4:52 PM on July 30, 2007

Since you have a job, a lot of reasons for doing an internship vanish.

However (speaking as a computer scientist, ie someone in a different field), in my experience, internships are essentially a long interview. Nobody really expects interns to get much of anything useful done, though it's always good when they do (ie, doing more than warming your chair puts you ahead of most other interns). The companies are willing to pay interns the salary in order to get a chance to evaluate how good of a candidate they are for a full time position, so I think that the "cheap/free labor" is more like "expensive non-labor," especially when you factor in the time of full time employees required to get interns on the right track.

The situation may be very different in your field, but I found a lot of value in interning in several different companies, establishing connections, and having a much better idea of whether I'd like to work in a particular place or not. If you're happy with your current job, and would like to work at the same company after graduation, most of these benefits are moot though.
posted by bsdfish at 4:53 PM on July 30, 2007

I think the point is that experience is important for finding a job, even an entry-level first-real-job-out-of-college job. If you already have the experience you need for the field your in then I wouldn't worry too much.

For those who don't have much experience in the field they want to enter, internships are one the primary avenues for acquiring some. While the paycheck may be small (or even non-existent) the payoff down the line can be huge. I certainly wouldn't overlook them.
posted by dyslexictraveler at 4:56 PM on July 30, 2007

College experience only < College experience + internship experience < College experience + relevant job experience
posted by davejay at 5:01 PM on July 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Depends on your field. I know MSFT makes full time offers to about 80% of its interns.

In CS internships do help quite a bit because when you go to hire someone to be a programmer, you want them to have some experience writing programs. If all they have is experience doing programs for CS class work, that doesn't really cut it. Alternatively, if they've done a bunch of programming on their own, either for fun or profit, but not inside a formal internship, that's just as good and I would hire that person as well (if not sooner).
posted by jeffamaphone at 5:06 PM on July 30, 2007

Imo the purpose of internships is to get work experience you could never normally get any other way. If your resume doesn't have a big hole in it or you already have the job you want there is really no reason as you've already accomplished the goal that the internship is supposed to help get you to. However, unpaid internships can pay off if they are prestigious or if you can make valuable contacts within your field. It just really depends whether those are things you need, most college students do, but there are plenty that don't.
posted by whoaali at 5:23 PM on July 30, 2007

Internships are next to useless with respect to success.
posted by Doohickie at 5:23 PM on July 30, 2007

An internship is a job for somebody who's not "qualified" enough yet to get a job.
posted by Netzapper at 5:54 PM on July 30, 2007

No. What would really help - work for two years and then go to B-school, preferably at a top ten or twenty school. Your first job is your internship, and it pays better. Your B-school degree is your ticket into higher opportunity. Aside from being smart and getting good grades, your two most important ins to a good job are showing creativity and aggression, not necessarily in that order.
posted by caddis at 6:35 PM on July 30, 2007

As someone who had a real job rather than going for internships, I'd actually say it wouldn't be a terrible idea to at least try out for them. When I finally decided to test the waters outside of my place of work, I realized that I really don't know how to get a job -- I just know how to have a job. Which means to this day I'm still not certain whether I'm any good at writing up CVs, being in interviews, etc. Right now I'm okay because I have a network of people who know I'm good at what I do, so I go from "having" one job to "having" another, but I really wonder, if I ever decided to change industries and actually had to sell myself to strangers for a position, would I stand a chance at all?

I'm not a follower of the 7 habits at all, but some of the recommendations do come to mind from time to time. In this case, I think the recommendation "Sharpen the saw" is apt. You should try out for internships, even unpaid ones, even if you have no intention of taking them (that's the beautiful thing about internships as opposed to normal jobs. Most internships have loads and loads of applicants, so you're not really causing damage if you apply -- they expect you to flake since you're a college student and it's a less formal situation). This will make you familiar with what you need to do in case your job no longer makes you happy. I know I sure wish I'd taken on some internships when I had the chance. Very few companies want an intern who's 30 and has been out of college for a few years.
posted by Deathalicious at 6:42 PM on July 30, 2007

If you are currently doing work that applies to your field, I don't think you need to supplement that with an internship (unless there is some curricular requirement and your current job won't meet that requirement). I think that internships are a valuable experience and I give my interns real responsibilities. My college internships definitely helped me get future jobs, both in terms of experience, and contacts/networking/references.

I doubt your university is getting a kickback, but they do look a lot better to prospective students and their parents when they can say that X% of students had an internship (and I guess technically, you're bringing down that percentage). Plus it makes them look good when they can show an impressive list of recognizable companies that their students have interned for.

The idea that you won't excel beyond entry level without an internship is rubbish. You excel beyond entry level because of your drive, job performance, and more. An internship might help you attain an entry level position (which it sounds like at the very least you already have), but not having one is not going to doom you to a life of entry level. Your practical, relevant, responsibility-bearing experience is much more impressive than a semester or year-long part-time internship.

The only caveat with this is the possibility that you'd be working for a major player and you are currently in a small shop. Having a "brand name" internship on your resume is a very powerful thing - plus the contacts are likely to be more fruitful and the programs are well-developed so that you do real work. Maybe that's why they're pushing you so hard?
posted by ml98tu at 9:18 PM on July 30, 2007

I edited that first paragraph to the point that it doesn't make sense anymore. What I meant to say is:

If you are currently doing work that applies to your field, I don't think you need to supplement that with an internship (unless there is some curricular requirement and your current job won't meet that requirement). I do generally think that internships are a valuable experience though - for example, I give my interns real responsibilities to help them learn practical skills for the job function they're interested in. My own college internships definitely helped me get future jobs, both in terms of experience, and contacts/networking/references.

Sorry, I guess I'm more tired than I thought. :)
posted by ml98tu at 9:24 PM on July 30, 2007

I had a short internship that is now a job for me. It was great for networking, but the point is to get experience so you can get a real job. Worked for me, but you already have a job.

It was really hard to get one and most of them seem to be unpaid, which I thought was unacceptable. Some friends have done unpaid internships and to me they seemed like menial slave labor. I volunteer and do the exact same thing, but I have more freedom. An intern can't take the day off, a volunteer can.

However, they do let you see the inside of a company/organization/etc. which gives you insight into future careers even if you are just slave labor. I know I probably won't work in non-profit or academia because of my experiences.
posted by melissam at 9:25 PM on July 30, 2007

sedcond, third the above.

you have a relevant paid job lined up, which is precicely the point of an internship. those are to make contacts, to introduce yourself in lieu of a smashing resume.

next time one of these people tries to sell you on an internship, ask them why they would recommend it. mention that you thought paid work experience like the one you have lined up was superior. perhaps they have an argument we all missed - they are supposed to help you after all. most likely they are merely using the cookie cutter method on you - they are not used to seeing a resume different from the norm. challenge them and see what they come up with as a response.
posted by krautland at 10:07 PM on July 30, 2007

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