Internships: Brilliant or Bogus?

Internships: Brilliant or Bogus?

A recent article in The Week Magazine highlights the increase in internships by job seekers, including those who are fairly advanced in their careers. The article has ignited a firestorm amongst job seekers, some of whom find the whole concept of an internship, particularly an unpaid internship, completely bogus.  Some view internships merely as a chance for employers to take advantage of unpaid labor in order to advance their business.

If you’re a job seeker, spending time and energy on the debate over the merits of interning may not be directly helpful for your job hunt. Instead, ask, “Is there a way that an internship can create new possibilities for my job search?”  If the answer is “yes”, turn your attention to locating the right internship opportunity and making the most of it.

As you job search, are you looking for any of these things:

  1. Learning new skills
  2. Gaining experience in a new field or area
  3. Adding achievements and successes with new skills
  4. Keeping resume fresh, avoiding  a resume gap
  5. Getting your foot in the door at a specific company
  6. Building connections, networking

If so, an internship can be a very effective way to achieve those goals if it’s clear to you that a particular internship provides the opportunity. A good question for interns is “What will this internship look like on my resume?” Or, “How does this internship support my job search goals?” However, in order to make it a positive and productive experience, it’s critical that what you hope to achieve aligns with the company’s goal.

When you’ve determined exactly what you hope to achieve, and how an internship can move you closer to a job, don’t keep this information to yourself. Share it with people you work with during your internship and review it regularly. Don’t expect the company offering the internship to optimize the experience for you.  It falls to you to make sure you get the most out of your internship.

The debate over the practice of internships continues.  Instead of focusing on the controversy, use your energy to determine whether an internship can advance your career and get you back to work faster. If it helps you achieve your goals, go for it!

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