Why Internships Are Important

Lemme ask you a question.

How would you like to give up some of your free time – time that you could be using to hit up the honeys at WashBar – to do some hard, demeaning work for little or no compensation, for a company that nobody has ever heard of?

Let me hear you say it with me: $@%# NO!

So why do your friends subject themselves to such torture?  Well, it has everything to do with a little thing called perceived value.

Perceived value is the pile of money your future employers associate with You.  That is, you in terms of your resume, work history, and interview… so your mad slam poetry skillz don’t count, yo.  All things being equal, if you have two fresh college grads, and one has a year-long internship listed on their resume and the other doesn’t, guess who gets the giant pile of money?

Why is that?  When you like something enough to do it for free – you’re probably going to be damn good at it. Seth Godin has a great story about street beggars.  A dude asks for a dollar for four quarters.  So you give him a dollar.  He then asks if you can spare a quarter.  Sure, you might turn him down, but you’ll remember those eyes.

More than that, but if you demonstrate that you’re willing to do a $60,000 job for a year for $8.50 an hour (about a $20/hr loss), you’re showing that you really care about your profession.  A great internship can really pay off!

Unfortunately, not all internships are created equally.  Here’s how to spot a bad internship:

  • Unpaid with unclear benefits to you.  (If they can’t tell you what you have to gain besides “experience”, walk away.)
    • Note: there are some good unpaid internships – but the benefits to you will be clear (it’s okay to ask what they are before you become an intern!)
  • Unclear goals.
  • High turnover rate – hopefully the term “burning interns” is just slang, right?
  • No Internship Coordinator/Mentor.
  • Single-department focus – you want to find out all aspects of the career you’ve chosen.
  • Anything labeled “Marketing” which somehow magically turns into cold-calling (unsolicited telemarketing) people.

I don’t generally consider myself an expert in this arena, but I do know one:OneDayOneInternship.com.  It’s by far the definitive source on cool internships.  Not only that, but the author has some points on Twitter.

Have fun, explore your options, and keep your mind on those piles and piles of money you’ll earn… later.

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