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Internships Can Be Worth More Than Money

240px-Shokunin_businessman.svgTwo summers ago, I reluctantly pulled myself out of bed on my first day of vacation and headed for a job fair.  I didn’t want a summer job, but a sense of duty to do the “responsible” thing forced me into business attire on that hot day and I handed out resumes to a handful of vendors.

Two weeks later, I received only one phone call.  And it wasn’t for a job; it was for an unpaid internship.  I accepted the position and started working as what I would have told you only days before was one of the last things I could imagine myself doing: news reporting.  The summer internship went well and turned into a part-time job; I now proudly tell people that I work as a news reporter for a radio station.


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This is not an advertisement for internships at KHTS AM 1220 (though I’d highly recommend them).  Since I was a college student with a poor resume and hardly any work experience, an internship was invaluable to give me the education and training that I needed to prepare me for the workforce.  If you are looking to build up your resume, gain experience, or learn about your field of study, you might want to consider an internship.

The purpose of an internship is to serve as an educational and training experience for the intern.  Rather than going straight into a job that requires experience or a set of skills, individuals can use internships to build up their resume and develop their skills.  As in my case, the internship does not have to be in the field that a person is studying; the internship might be valuable purely because it provides the intern with experience or it might introduce the person to a career they had never considered before.

An internship within a person’s field of study can be useful to make connections in the company or profession they are considering.  A company is likely to hire its interns who have already been trained and are familiar with their procedures rather than hiring someone unfamiliar with their operations.  Valuable contacts can be made in internships; networking is a great way to find out about job opportunities and build useful business relationships.

It is one thing to dream of being a firefighter or pilot or nurse, but it is another thing to actually do the job.  Internships allow people the opportunity to experience the jobs firsthand, talk to people in the profession, and find out if it is actually something they want to do.  “Externships” or job-shadowing can also be useful in this situation.  Job-shadowing is usually short-term (a few days to a week), but offers an opportunity to get exposure to a “day in the life” of a particular field.

Finding an internship is essentially the same process as looking for a job.  But, interns can set their sights higher than the standard entry-level jobs that most students turn to when looking for a summer job.  Interns should try to pick something within their interest or area of study that could compliment their education or provide them with future opportunities.  Internships can be found by attending career fairs, asking employers about internship opportunities, and networking.

Some interns can receive credit at their college for their work at a company; the internship is considered an extension of their educational experience.  To receive credit for an internship, students should complete a certain number of hours at the internship site depending on the internship guidelines of the college. It is important to check out a college’s guidelines prior to doing an internship for credit since colleges usually require additional work be completed and students must meet specific criteria designated by a faculty member or internship sponsor.

Internships can be paid or unpaid, depending on certain criteria laid out by the U.S. Department of Labor.  The following criteria are listed on the U.S. Department of Labor’s website as those necessary for an internship to be unpaid:

1.  The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;

2.  The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;

3.  The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;

4.  The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;

5.  The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and

6.  The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

If all of these factors are met, the U.S. Department of Labor’s website states that minimum wage or overtime provisions do not apply to the intern; if they are not met, the intern must be paid at least minimum wage.

Most schools are out and summer fun is just beginning, but while you are making your vacation plans, it might be worthwhile to also think about an internship or other way to get into the workforce.  Whether it’s to put classroom knowledge into practice, gain experience, or get started on a career, an internship will likely be a great use of your summer.

To read more about internships, click on the link below:

http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2011/04/29/why-you-should-get-a-summer-internship

http://internships.about.com/od/internsites/tp/howtofind.htm

http://internships.about.com/od/internships101/g/What-Is-An-Externship.htm

http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs71.htm