It’s graduation day. Proud parents snap timeless photographs as caps fly towards the late spring sky.
But now what?
Years of education give young adults the skills to succeed in a wide range of career paths. Unfortunately for many recent graduates, these skills do not guarantee that they will land their dream job right after college.
The high unemployment rate and the fact that more people are attending four-year universities than ever, according to the US Department of Education, means that more people are qualified for fewer high-paying jobs. But a Summer or part-time internship during college can jump-start a recent grad’s career before they cross the stage.
The importance of having experience before graduation means that the competition for internships —both paid and unpaid— is more fierce than ever before.
“The market for the best and brightest students is the most competitive I’ve ever seen,” said Dan Black, Director of Campus Recruiting for Ernst & Young, in an interview with Experience, a popular job board for college students.
The level of competition for these positions has opened up a large market for unpaid internships. While these positions may help students learn more about their career options, they are not as likely to lead directly to a full-time job after graduation.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) conducted a study in 2013 to look at the differences between paid and unpaid internships. They showed that 63 percent of college graduates with a paid internship received full-time job offers after graduation, compared to just 37 percent of graduates with unpaid internships.
“While there’s a stark difference between having a paid internship and no internship in terms of offer rates and median salary, it all pretty much seems to wash away when you’re talking about unpaid internships versus no internships at all,” Edwin Nace, NACE’s research director, told The Atlantic last year.
This divide makes it particularly important to take the internship application process seriously. A well-designed resume and a strong cover letter can make an enormous difference to potential employers.
Based on advice from Glenn Curtis of Investopedia here’s a few things to keep in mind as you apply for internships.
- Double and triple-check your resume. It should be visually appealing, with consistent formatting throughout.
- Experience comes in many forms. Consider your schoolwork, past volunteer work, and anything you’ve done within the last 5 years as a source of experience.
- Summer internships aren’t just for summer anymore. Consider a part-time internship during the school year
- Get applications in on time. Even better? Send them in early.
- Bring your “A” game to the interview. Look up common interview questions online and practice your answers before your interview.
- Emphasize flexibility. Show potential employers you can meet their needs.
- Ask about full-time positions. Many employers hire interns with the hope that they will one day become loyal employees. Asking about long term opportunities lets employers know you’re serious about your application, not just trying to fluff out your resume.
Landing the perfect internship can jump-start a career by giving college students the chance to get their feet wet in “the real world.” This gives them the opportunity to impress future employers and learn more about the type of job they want to pursue when the time comes.
“If I hadn’t had this internship experience, I wouldn’t have learned what I love to do, what I don’t like to do, and what I can envision myself doing for the rest of my life,” said Tori Minger, in a blog post about an internship she had internship.
The increasingly competitive job market makes it difficult to land an entry-level job. But starting a career while still taking college classes gives young adults the chance to test-drive the real-world application of their studies and improves their chances of finding a great job after graduation.