Since last fall, nearly every one of the 3,000+ Greek American college students we work with has been racing against the clock — and against 12 million other undergraduates — to land an internship this year.
Why are internships so important?
After all, for students who were graduating even twenty years ago, snagging a high-profile summer position was not that crucial to landing a job after college, and for many, summer internships were just a way to fill in what were fairly blank résumés.
But in the past two decades, the rules about hiring have changed, and the competition for talent has heated up dramatically.
“Perhaps nothing illustrates the massive shift in how college graduates launch a career as much as the role the internship now plays — an experience taken for granted twenty years ago,” writes Jeff Selingo, Washington Post writer and author of “There Is Life After College: What Parents and Students Should Know About Navigating School to Prepare for the Jobs of Tomorrow.”
“You can’t spend your first couple of summers in college lifeguarding or working as a camp counselor anymore if you have a specific job in mind after graduation,” Matt Sigelman, the CEO of Burning Glass Technologies, a company that provides real-time labor market data and has studied internship postings, tells Selingo. “Those typical summer jobs are not going to position you for work after graduation.”
“Internships are now a critical cog in the recruiting wheel for Fortune 500 companies and many smaller companies, too,” writes Selingo.
Today employers hire as full-time workers around 50 percent of the interns who had worked for them before they graduated, according to the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University.”
“At large companies (more than 10,000 employees) and in some industries (construction, consulting, accounting, and scientific services) the share of interns who get full-time offers is growing every year, and closer to 75 percent at several of them.”
“No one wants to be the first full-time employer anymore of new college graduates who haven’t worked or interned anywhere,” writes Selingo. “As a result, the race to lock up the best interns early in their undergraduate career for full-time employment later is commonplace among employers of all sizes and in all industries.”
Internships are increasingly the only way for new applicants to get in the door at some companies, reports Selingo.
Postings for internships now make up a significant proportion of the overall entry-level job openings in several industries, including engineering, graphic design, communications, marketing, and information technology.
What does that mean for students hoping to find an internship in industries like these? First of all, it means that students have to bring some specific skills with them, just to get their foot in the door.
Traditionally the summer intern fetched coffee and made photocopies, but not anymore. In many companies, interns perform real work, and employers are expecting interns to come with specific skills already in hand.
Students with technology internships are expected to know programming languages like SQL and Java; design interns need to be proficient in Photoshop and InDesign; and every intern basically needs to know how to manipulate a spreadsheet in Excel.
What does this skills race look like at ground zero — the college campus? We try to answer that question in Part II of this article.
Jeff Selingo is the author of “There Is Life After College: What Parents and Students Should Know About Navigating School to Prepare for the Jobs of Tomorrow,” and “College (Un)Bound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students,” a New York Times best selling education book in 2013.
In May of 1994, a couple of weeks after I finished my junior year of college, I packed up my parents’ Honda Accord and moved to Washington, D.C. for the summer. I lived in a dorm at American University with dozens of other college students from around the country who had all come to the nation’s capital for what was seen as a rite of passage on our way to a bachelor’s degree: the summer internship. Read more at: linkedin.com