Spring is just around the corner. That means a crop of graduating students (both college and high school) will be stretching their legs into the real world. First of all, welcome. Second of all, what are you to do? If you do not have a job lined up, should you look for an internship? Are job internships necessary in 2023?
The argument about internships spreads to both sides. In fact, it’s a common debate that’s been relevant for… well, forever. The working world is tough, and there is no perfect way to navigate it. So, if you are thinking of taking on an internship, here are some pros and cons.
Why Are Job Internships Necessary?
Let’s start with the basics here.
If you have already been applying to gigs outside of school, you have probably noticed a fractal flaw with the job application process. Entry-level jobs call for one to three years of experience in the field.
Welcome to the conundrum of getting hired. In 2021, Statista Research Department noted that 4.8% of recent college graduates remain unemployed. This is no coincidence. Starter jobs still require work experience, not just a diploma. Sure, you may have aced all of your tests and graduated with a stunning GPA, but you are still more likely to lose out on a job to someone without a degree that has more experience. So, what is there to do?
Welcome to the main point of internships. Get your feet wet in the field. Interns are less of a commitment to employers, allowing workers a chance without too many drawbacks. Ultimately, the intern gets to experience the role, and the employer gets a low-risk hire that could potentially move into a more permanent position.
As an intern, you get the resume skills necessary to land those entry-level jobs.
Why Are Job Internships Unnecessary?
According to a 2021 report by StuDocu, students who completed an internship are 15% less likely to be unemployed in the first years after college.
Is a 15% chance really worth your time and effort?
A majority of internships are unpaid and overworked. Mostly, you are not offered a salary but offered experience. It is an exchange rate that causes the new-worker community to grumble.
Is spending your precious time working for an unpaid job worth the effort? Aren’t there better ways to go about getting starter experience?
Let’s try to break it down.
Pro: Job Internships = Work Experience
This is the most obvious point, and we are starting to repeat ourselves.
More so than just a mark on your resume, an internship is an easier way to gain hands-on experience. It’s not just being able to say you did it but to actually do it.
With a more approachable hiring rate for internships, you are given a less-committal way to see how the field actually works. You may ultimately find that the job is not for you. Fortunately, you do not have to work throughout a contract or deal with resignations. Consequently, you can decide that you do not actually like working in the role and wash your hands of it.
If you enjoy the field but feel more comfortable in a different role, you can tailor your job search going forward. You’ve got a taste of how the job works. There are no more hypotheticals to base your decisions on.
All in all, an internship allows you to see if a job is a good fit. You won’t get stuck doing something you genuinely dislike. So many times we hear of people studying toward a job field and then despising it. Internships allow you to pivot with ease.
Con: Menial Work
Unfortunately, becoming an intern doesn’t mean you will be working through every aspect of a job. In fact, most interns end up finding themselves doing menial work.
Some internships may just view the employee as temporary help. This leads to the intern doing a load of unwanted work while employees garner the experience. You may be promised learning situations, but end up with everything but. It may be too late at this point, and leaving is the only option.
There may be no way to notice what the actual job will entail until you are in it. Just remember that if things do not seem to be beneficial for you, do not waste your time any further.
Pro: Creating Connections
Speaking from personal experience (if you asked), the main takeaway from an internship is not necessarily the work experience, but the people you meet.
Make sure to take the time to get to know your fellow employees at an internship. Making yourself known and likable can only help in the long run. If you take yourself out of your comfort zone to help build relationships with workers in the field, they may be called on in the future.
Therefore, ask questions and go out of your way to help others. Make yourself valuable. You never know when relationships are going to pay off. The coworker you help may be the one that lands you a full-time gig.
Furthermore, if your internship does not lead to an actual job offer, you will still have peers for job references. Having great references in the field is more beneficial than great references elsewhere. Make connections. This is the main benefit of working in the field, even if just as an intern.
Con: Job Internships May Be Unpaid
Many advisors will tell you to never take an unpaid internship. Unfortunately for those driving to land a job, this may be easier said than done. A 2021 study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that more than 40% of interns surveyed were not getting paid.
Why work for free? Is job experience really worth the time and effort, especially in a world where the price of living continues to climb?
At the end of the day, it’s your call. If the internship is not a long-term commitment and you are comfortable financially, there is an upside to taking it. If you are an individual that needs to pay the bills, it may be entirely impossible.
This is the most drastic decision to make. If an internship only raises your employment chances by 15%, why give them free labor?
It’s an archaic system that needs to be altered, but that’s not the point here. Look for a paid internship. If you cannot find one, weigh your options. If you take an unpaid internship, work to the best of your ability to get positives out of it. Work hard, make connections and be available for any applicable experience available.
Pro: Competitive Edge
Being an intern gives you a fast track to any available jobs in the company. In fact, most companies take applications in-house before opening up positions to the world. So, if you are an intern, you may be able to apply for an open job before you have any outside competition.
If you take an internship at a business or organization that you dream of working for, this is a huge competitive advantage.
If you take an internship at a place just for the experience, getting a job there may not be your overall goal.
Once again, you must decide if this is really worth the extra work.
Some job internships may require a plethora of factors to work there.
Are you telling me I have to meet the requirements to work for free? Yes, welcome to the frustrating world of interning.
Internships may require studying for a degree in a specific major or maintaining a certain GPA. Some internships require being in school in general, something that not everyone has the benefit of doing.
If an internship requires things that put you under stress, the experience may not be worth it in the end.
Pro: Applicable Credits
On the other hand, internships may provide college credits.
If your college provides allocated credits for working an internship, then you may benefit in more ways than job experience. Think of it this way. If you can earn credits from working, not only are you pushing your degree forward, but you are also gaining the advantages of an internship.
It’s a little bit easier to swallow a lack of pay if you wouldn’t be making money in class, anyway.
Con: It’s Still a Commitment
At the end of the day, it’s still work. You are still required to be there and put in the labor, even if it is unpaid. If you are going to school during this process, it may interfere with your time to work on school-related activities.
Though you are pushing for a positive future, you could be hurting it by negatively affecting your educational success. It may end up being more of a hassle (an unpaid hassle) than anything positive.
Conclusion: Are Job Internships Really Worth It?
While listing the reasons to avoid internships could take up a book, there are reasons why they still exist. Ultimately, it comes down to your living situation and if you can take on the task of working (potentially) unpaid.
Do not stress too much. Finding a job in your field without experience is possible. It may require a bit more grinding, connection building, or working in related jobs first. Sure, an internship may help fast-track you into your career, but it is not always necessary. If you cannot afford to work one, do not worry. With enough hard work, social skills, and dedication, you will get to where you want to be, regardless of your experience.
If you find that an internship is not possible for you, keep your head up. Plenty of people have worked into their careers without them. Just remember that you may need to work from the bottom. Regardless, you’ve got this.
If you are looking for a job in your field of choice, reach out to us. We can help you land your dream job as soon as possible. Together, we can do this.