As if 8 am lectures, hours spent in the library, and club involvement wasn’t enough, internships have quickly become a must-have on every college student’s’ resume. While many college students have at least one internship throughout their four years of studying, many students now feel the need to have much more experience. With the job market growing increasingly competitive and millennials struggling to prove themselves in a world so critical of them, internships have become the key to getting ahead.
There’s so much to gain from internships, it’s no surprise that many companies take experience more seriously than your alma mater or GPA. As long as you weren’t one of the unlucky souls in an internship that consisted of fetching coffee, you likely learned much more about your field than you did in your weekly lectures. With so much to benefit from internships, students not only do them during the summer, but the school year as well. This greatly increases the amount of experience on their resume, placing them a step above their competition. So, if you haven’t caught on yet, just getting good grades isn’t good enough anymore. No, neither is a long list of involvement in student orgs. Employers are now looking for real, professional experience, and without it, your resume falls to the bottom of a stack of more qualified candidates.
As companies look for increasingly qualified students when it comes to full-time positions, it’s no surprise they are turning more towards past interns than taking a chance on new applicants. According to an article in The Washington Post, “More than 70 percent to 80 percent of new hires at big companies like Facebook, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, and eBay come through their internship programs now, compared to about half or less just a decade ago.” While this may not seem like a big deal at first glance, this impacts the quantity of jobs available to those who did not have these internships. If a company already knows the quality of work a prior intern can do, they don’t need to look elsewhere and those of us who didn’t land the coveted internship position are another step behind when it comes to full-time openings.
So, if internships are so highly praised and serve as a basic requirement for any job listing, why don’t all of them pay? This is just another place where economic disparities are a glaring issue for college students. Not all of us can afford to take an unpaid internship, and while there are some paying opportunities, sometimes we have to skip on a dream unpaid internship in favor of an internship that provides experience but isn’t really something we love. I myself have dealt with this and face the repercussions after graduating as I attempted to get a job in the field I love, but couldn’t take unpaid internships in. It’s hard enough to afford college, but moving to another city for a summer in an unpaid position is nearly impossible for many of us. Unfortunately, come graduation day, no matter how hard we studied or how many organizations we were a part of, a lack of professional experience at a well-known company leaves a glaring hole in the center of our resumes.
Ultimately, if internships are going to continue to play such a significant role in the hiring process the culture of paying interns has got to change. If we are going to value these positions more than college itself, as it seems to increasingly appear, then it needs to be possible for all people to have a shot at success. A lot of hard work goes into internships as students try to fill in the gaps that long lectures can’t fill, so let’s recognize that work properly.