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Internships Can Give You an Edge

By Peter Vogt, Monster Senior Contributing Writer

November 03, 2009

Wondering if it’s worth your time to do an internship in college?

“Measuring an internship-exposed student against a noninternship-exposed student can best be compared to the difference between a roll of film and a photograph,” says Errica Rivera, director of college relations at Nationwide, a Fortune 500 insurance and financial services company in Columbus, Ohio. “Both started out the same way — with potential. The difference is in the development.”

Here are the ways an internship can give you a leg up on the competition.

You Probably Have the Right Stuff

Donn Pearlman was an award-winning news anchor and reporter at WBBM/CBS Radio in Chicago for 25 years before moving into his current position in public relations. He says there’s no comparison between a new college grad who has interned for a commercial radio station and one who has done some volunteering for a noncommercial college station.

“Almost anyone can get a position of some kind at a college station,” says Pearlman, senior managing director for ITQ-Minkus & Dunne Communications in Chicago. “After all, the station is there as an educational tool to help teach students about broadcasting. However, competition for jobs, even internships, at commercial stations in medium and large markets presumably is considerably tougher. So a resume that includes an internship at a commercial station may be one indicator to a potential employer that this candidate has the right stuff.”

You’ve Demonstrated a Committed to the Field

For all a prospective employer knows, you might simply be testing a career field’s waters. Sure, you’re trying for the job, but how does the employer ensure you really want to work in the industry? One way an employer can see how committed you really are is to see if you’ve done an internship in the field. “Employers who hire people with internship experience can be more sure they’re hiring people who know they want to be in the particular profession,” says Stephanie Specchio, director of communications at Elmira College in Elmira, New York. “Internship veterans aren’t trying to find the perfect fit. They’ve already done that as interns.”

Rosemary Reed, president of Double R Productions, a Washington, DC-based television production company, adds, “Usually, former interns have a better handle on what they’d really like to do. I don’t want to spend a lot of time training an employee only to find out they now want to travel the world with a rock band.”

You Won’t Need Much Training and Hand-Holding

If you’ve got internship experience, you’ve already received some basic training in your field and have less of a learning curve facing you as a prospective new full-time employee, says Missy Acosta, media relations manager for Ackermann PR, a Knoxville, Tennessee-based public relations firm.

“In this age of fast-paced business environments, we want to make sure everyone gets up to speed as rapidly as possible,” stresses Acosta, who is also Ackermann’s internship manager. “That ramp is accelerated when someone is already experienced.”

When an employer is choosing between two new college graduates for the same job, the one who has internship experience will almost always have an advantage over the one who doesn’t., “As an employer, hiring someone right out of school can be somewhat daunting,” says Melissa Kinsey, senior account executive for Jackson-Dawson Integrated Marketing Communications in Greenville, South Carolina. “However, hiring someone right out of school who has had an internship can make the task a little easier.”