College students will face competition when applying for internships

Although internships are important to go along with classroom education, this year will prove to be very difficult for students to land an internship. The economy is starting to improve, but it still isn’t thriving as it once did.

“The job market will continue to be tough for college students graduating next spring,” says John A. Challenger, chief executive officer for Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. “Getting on-the-job experience through internships will be critical. Unfortunately, the number of internships nationwide has not returned to prerecession levels, and competition for those spots are fierce.”

Internship experience helps students find real-life jobs after graduation. About 43 percent of graduating seniors with internship knowledge obtained a job offer, while only 31 percent of college seniors without internship experience received a job offer, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

These days, internships aren’t only for those students still in school. College students have more competition, and it doesn’t seem that age matters.

“Unlike a decade ago, when internships were reserved almost exclusively for those still in school, today’s college interns are competing with candidates who recently graduated,” says Challenger. “And in this economy, they are just as likely to compete with professionals who graduated 10 years ago.”

College students will have to stand out if they are trying to contend with experienced and mature workers. With the advantage of working-related skills and exposure, the experienced employees hope an internship will get them back into the job market.

Twenty-three percent of employers say they are interviewing experienced workers (with 10 years of work experience) and mature workers (age 50 and older), according to a CareerBuilder survey that questioned at least 2,500 employers. This definitely makes it harder for college students to gain workplace exposure, especially when many majors require some sort of internship experience.

Age doesn’t seem to be a factor for employers. They want someone that can perform these tasks: hands-on experience related to company goals, office support, working with customers, running errands and office maintenance. Twenty-seven percent of managers plan to hire interns to help with the workload for the rest of the year.

When it comes to offering compensation for interns, 14 percent of managers will employ paid interns, while 7 percent won’t be able to offer payment for interns. Of those who will be paid for their tasks, the majority of employers (53 percent) will pay $10 or more an hour.

In order to find an internship this fall, Rosemary Haefner — CareerBuilder’s vice president of human resources — recommends starting your search as soon as possible, networking and being willing to apply to different organizations. A bigger variety of choices will better one’s chances of gaining work experience.

Many times, internships will develop into full-time positions. In order to gain the employer’s interest, interns need to go above and beyond and give it their all.

“Once an intern is on the job, it is critical to treat each day like a job interview,” says Challenger. “With the job market in recovery and employers slow to add new workers, it is critical that interns exceed expectations.

“Those who merely meet expectations probably will not get the full-time job offer.”

Challenger offers tips to help gain a full-time position from an internship:

n Consider the internship a real job. Arrive to the office on time and make sure to meet your deadlines. Keep a positive attitude and be willing to take on new learning opportunities.

n Go above and beyond expectations. Be sure to share your ideas and provide solutions. Look for new projects and assignments.

n Follow dress codes. Try to stick to a professional wardrobe. You want to be able to fit in with the company culture and obey the rules.

n Network and ask about open entry-level positions. Develop contacts in the company; they can be outside of your department.

n Write down accomplishments and input. Keep track of your duties on projects, your individual achievements and the results attained.


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