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The Importance of the Internship

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In the past decade, nearly 60 percent of college students reported doing an internship or co-op during their undergraduate years, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ 2017 Student Survey Report. Many students do more than one internship, in fact, and nearly two-thirds of employers who hire interns end up offering full-time jobs to those who intern for them.

An internship during college can be the difference between ready employment and employability for today’s graduates. More than half of interns land a full-time job from their internship, according to a 2019 Internship Survey Report from NACE.

As we continue to endure the coronavirus pandemic, students are still finding internships – many are shifting, along with so many things, to virtual. As businesses go virtual, says Amy Denton, Cleary University’s Director of Corporate and Career Development, internships are following suit.

“Virtual internships are nothing new,” she notes. “But they’re definitely becoming more commonplace.”

Denton is a huge fan of internships, calling herself “a cheerleader” for these important workplace experiences that prime students to succeed after graduation. 

“It is my selfish goal to have all of our majors incorporate internships as a requirement,” Denton says.

Cleary University does require internships for several majors, including sports management, but not all.

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Internships do a lot for students, says Denton. They increase a student’s self-worth – once they see their abilities put to use in the workplace. 

Just receiving an offer of an internship is a confidence boost, she says, “because it’s a competition – it’s a challenge – which makes receiving an offer a compliment.”

But more than that, Denton notes that an internship “contributes to their networking pipeline. It’s all about who they meet, who they have contact with. Students and alumni” profess to staying in touch with folks from an early internship, and those relationships later led to employment.

Academic experience and accolades only go so far, Denton says. In today’s business world, practical, hands-on experience is essential for graduates seeking solid employment.

“An employer is going to want to see real-world, experiential learning,” she says.

From the student side, an internship prepares them for what the workplace will be like. Not only do they gain resume experience; they see how it is to function in a workplace setting, to build relationships with colleagues, to problem-solve, and to add skills to their repertoire.

Additionally, students might think they know what career they want to pursue, but an internship can either confirm that their chosen career is a fit – or show that it may not be. 

“I tell students this is a safe time in their career because they’re learning and exploring,” says Denton. “That’s what university is all about – discovering.”

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It’s a lot easier to realize through an internship that a particular job may not be as perfect for you as you thought – than to discover this once you’re hired full-time at a company, she adds. “We don’t want to be doing that at 42 years old. It’s ok to do that at 20.”

Through its Career Development office, Cleary University helps students prepare for and seek internships. We help students with their resumes, their social media profiles (most notably, LinkedIn and Handshake), and even practice interviewing so they’re ready for the real thing.

“Internships are so competitive, you’ve got to stand out,” says Denton, who teaches CAR 1000, a required class at Cleary that helps students prepare for interviewing and job-seeking. More than half of the internship-offering companies that Cleary works with have switched to virtual internships since March, she adds.

No matter the situation, gaining work experience is always a benefit and something that positions today’s college students to be fully ready for real careers. After all, that’s the goal of a quality business education!