Why an Internship Will Make a Difference in Your Job Search

How would you like to get paid more in your first job out of college?  What if it was as simple as having an internship on your resume?

According to a survey conducted by the National Association of College and Employers, it is.  They found that some employers pay over six percent more to entry-level candidates who have internship or co-op experience, compared with those who don’t.  Even better, more co-op and internship programs are offering medical and dental insurance to participants.

But the benefits of having an internship (or possibly two or three) under your belt when it’s time to hunt for your first job extend far beyond just the tangible benefits of a paycheck.  You’ll gain advantages that you’ll be able to carry with you and apply in your professional life for years to come.

Here, we’ve compiled several long-lasting, meaningful ways that having an internship will make a positive impact on your future job search.

Internships Build Your Confidence

Internships are often many students’ first exposure to working in a professional office environment.  And if your previous job experiences involved asking people if they wanted fries with their meals, it’s understandable that you might be a little daunted at first.  That’s why an internship can serve as a great confidence builder. Once you get into an office and discover that you certainly can hold your own with the pros, you’ll feel that much more self-assured when it comes time to interview for the real thing.  

Plus, internships can help you gain confidence about— or realize that you need to reevaluate — your career plans.  If you’ve been wavering about which direction to go after graduation, there’s no better way to gain clarity than by getting out and test driving a career path.  Choosing an internship that aligns with the specific field or type of job you’ve been aiming for will let you determine whether it’s right for you. And if it turns out it’s not, that’s fine, too.  It’s possible that after working in an office environment you’ll realize you want to find a job where you’re out and about calling on customers, such as a pharmaceutical sales representative. Either way, the fear of the unknown will be taken out of the equation.

Internships Grow Your Professional Network

It’s been said that up to 80 percent of job openings aren’t advertised.  So how is anyone getting hired? Networking! Businesses often fill positions with people who were referred to them by someone they know and trust, or with people they already know.  After completing an internship, you’ll have a whole host of new professional contacts who will know and trust you (at least they should!) and who understand your abilities and strengths.  That means that when you’re ready to look for a job, those people can be on the lookout for positions at their company or other companies where you’ll really shine. And, they can be the ones referring you to the folks who will want to hire you for those positions.   

Of course, a crucial step in the process is staying in touch with key people in your network so that they don’t forget about you after your internship is over.  Be sure to send an occasional email, make a phone call, or arrange an in-person meeting with those who can help you on your professional journey.

Get Valuable References through Internships

When it comes to references, who is giving them is almost more important than what they have to say about you.  Which would you prefer — a glowing reference from someone who managed you in an internship or a glowing reference from your coworker at your last summer job?  Your internship manager can attest to the fabulous job you did and the specific skills you bring to the table. When it’s time to apply for your first job, those references will be worth their weight in gold for demonstrating your strengths to your prospective employers because they’ll be coming from highly credible, impressive sources.

Internships Help Develop Your Personal Brand

Branding may seem like a buzzword these days, but there’s good reason everyone is throwing it around so much.  Your brand refers to your essence — what makes you, you, in a professional sense, and what makes you stand out from the crowd.  It is what will get an employer to hire you instead of someone else with similar experiences and a similar background.

With an internship, you’ll not only get a chance to demonstrate the characteristics that differentiate you from everyone else, but you’ll also get a better sense of what those characteristics and abilities are.  In the course of your internship, you may discover you had strengths you weren’t previously aware of. Perhaps you’ll get the chance to help with sales calls and discover a knack for it, or maybe you’ll help with some administrative tasks and realize you’re an organization superstar.

One great way to showcase your personal brand is by creating a LinkedIn profile.  You can think of LinkedIn as your digital business card. It shows the professional world who you are and what you’ve accomplished, so it’s a fantastic way to make the best first impression possible.  

Internships Open Doors for Future Opportunities

You never know when a company might be hiring, and having already worked there as an intern will give you a huge leg up over the competition.  According to the National Association of College and Employers, a primary goal of most internship and co-op programs is to convert participating students into full-time employees.  The average offer rate to interns in 2016 was 72.7 percent — the highest it has been since the pre-2008 recession market — and the conversion rate is 61.9 percent, a 13-year high!  

And, of course, an internship also helps open doors by adding impressive experience to your resume.  If you’ve already worked in an office environment — especially if it’s in the same industry as the jobs you’re applying for — you will certainly be ahead of those who haven’t.

So, stay prepared.  Zig Ziglar once said, “Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation.” Keep your resume and cover letter up-to-date, because you never know when opportunity might knock, whether in the form of a job offer or perhaps even another internship opportunity.

Now that you know how an internship will help you land a stellar first job after college, why not get moving on finding one?  If an internship is part of your graduation requirements, check with your school to make sure the positions you’re applying to meet those requirements.  Start thinking about what types of organizations you’d like to intern for, whether you’ll be applying for summer or winter internships, and whether you’d like to look for something near your school, hometown or elsewhere.  Internships are one of the best stepping stones to the endless possibilities that are waiting for you after graduation.