How Valuable is an Internship?

Internship vs. Degree?

Who’s more likely to land an interview - a candidate with a business degree or someone who hasn’t finished their degree, but had an internship several years ago?

According to a new study by the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, the former intern has a 14% higher chance of landing an interview over someone with a business degree without any experience. 

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, the researchers sent out over 9,000 fake resumes for business-related positions. A quarter of the faux resumes listed internship experience as far back as five years prior. The researchers found that the “candidates” with internship experience were 14% more likely to receive an interview compared to candidates without any experience. 

Why are Internships so Valuable? 

Any kind of experience is going to put you at the top of the list of candidates when it comes to hiring. Business experience isn’t something that can be taught in school. It’s something you learn by working in a business environment. The way to dress, the way to socialize and communicate, the way you present yourself to others, juggling priorities, and so on. These are all things that are critical to working in an office setting. 

Anyone with these types of business skills and know-how will have a leg up on someone coming right out of school. Employers have to try to find a candidate that will fit culturally with their organization. Is the candidate smart, able to figure out issues independently, able to work with a team and manage priorities? If you already have experience with some of these items you’ll be more valuable to the business – and thus more likely to be interviewed (or hired). 

It’s all About Ramp-Up!

The business is trying to find the best cultural fit and the candidate with the best set of experience. The business understands it will take some amount of time for a new hire to “ramp up” to full speed. The candidate they think will ramp up the quickest will be on the shortlist for hiring. 

In a business, time is money. If you can hire someone and have them at full productivity within two weeks versus someone who won’t be up to speed for two months, who will be hired? 
Your internship will help you with the ramp-up speed! 

Ideal Scenarios

What’s the ideal scenario for increasing your chances of finding a position out of school? Every summer you aren’t in school, you should be trying to find an internship related to your major field. Not only will this let you learn some of the soft skills necessary to succeed in a business setting, it will also let you get a view of how different companies operate. Maybe you’ll find you excel in a small company setting or maybe you’ll decide you want to work for a Fortune 500 company. 

If you don’t have any luck finding an internship, you may consider getting any paying job. However, before you jump into the first job that offers you a position, think about what your long term goals are.

If you plan to work in a business setting, your job as barista isn’t going to look at good to potential employers as some kind of experience in a business setting. If the intern route doesn’t work out and you plan on working in business, consider looking at a temp agency. Although these positions are usually grunt work and can be short term assignments, you are going to gain valuable experience. If you can show a potential employer that you’ve had experience working in a related position to your major, it won’t matter much if it was through a temp agency or internship. 

Due to the limited number of internships available it may be hard to find or get into an internship. Keep trying and don’t give up hope!