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Career Prep

Internships Help Your College Student Build Career-Ready Skills

Suzanne Shaffer

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Prospective employers value internship experience, and internships often lead to an offer for a full-time position.

Internships also provide real-world experience that helps students clarify what they're looking for in a job and work environment. When my daughter was in college, several paid and unpaid internships helped her decide on a career path and make contacts who could assist her in finding a job after graduation.

According to Indeed, one of the nation’s leading job and internship search platforms, internships are an ideal way for students to:

  • Figure out their interests (and create new ones)
  • Connect to industry professionals
  • Learn in a safe environment
  • Get exposure to office politics and culture
  • Connect to additional internship and employment opportunities

With all the competition for jobs after graduation, along with the valuable experience they'll gain, your student can’t afford to ignore the importance of internships.

How Do Internships Work?

The purpose of an internship is to provide a meaningful learning opportunity for the student. The company or organization also benefits because they can supplement their workforce with students, some of whom will eventually become permanent hires.

Even though internships may require the student to perform what might seem like menial tasks, those tasks will help the student gather information about the job and/or industry — and are also a practical reminder that we all start out on the ground floor, as beginners.

Interns are student employees. Internships may be paid or unpaid and the student may or may not receive academic credit for them. Sometimes an internship connects very directly with a student’s college coursework.

Before starting, a student will be informed of the particulars of the internship and specific learning objectives related to the experience.

Where Do Students Find Internships?

The campus career center is a primary source for locating internships. Most colleges and universities post opportunities in the career office and online (your student will need their campus account to access the listings) and many work with platforms like Handshake. The career center can also help your student with internship-related tasks: resumes, cover letters and interview tips.

Professors are another source for internship possibilities. Professors maintain connections with companies and professionals in their field of expertise and will often recommend a student if they hear of a position. This is a good reason for your student to cultivate strong relationships with professors.

Your student can also check online internship databases like, and Many companies post internship opportunities on LinkedIn as well — and if your student doesn't have a LinkedIn account yet, now’s the time to create one!

Why Are Internships Important?

An internship complements your student’s classroom learning while giving them valuable work experience. But there are other reasons your student should strongly consider adding an internship to their college credentials. According to an Internship and Co-op Report conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), "Employers had success converting their interns from the Class of 2018 into full-time, entry-level hires. The conversion rate for this group of interns is 56.1 percent, which is more than 10 percent higher than last year."

Simply put, internships often lead to an offer for a full-time job after graduation.

Internships also offer these benefits:

  • The opportunity to “try on” a career before applying for and accepting a “real” job
  • A chance to identify areas where they may need to take additional classes related to their career interests before graduation
  • Actual career-related work experience — according to the NACE survey, 50 percent of employers would like to see an internship on your student’s resume
  • The advantage of making networking contacts at the company where they intern
  • Higher starting salaries based on career-specific work experience

How Can Parents Help?

Parents today are more involved in their students’ lives than ever before. We need to recognize the fine line between providing encouragement and advice and inappropriate involvement. Developing good internship and job search skills is an important part of a student’s progress toward independence.

Your key role in this process is to serve as an advisor, offering guidance but allowing your student to take the lead. It’s appropriate to proofread resumes and cover letters, share internship prospects you find or hear about, and discuss their career and professional goals. Do not under any circumstances compose their resume and cover letter, apply for an internship on their behalf, or follow up on communication with a potential employer.

You can also be a cheerleader when (not if) your student encounters disappointment while applying for internships. They may need to apply for 10 or 12 before landing one!

Your student is embarking on their own unique academic and professional journey. Internships should be a central part of their college experience, helping them not only to secure employment after graduation but also to have confidence that the job they choose will fit their personal and career goals. Supporting your student as they find their first internship will be a rewarding experience for both of you.

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Suzanne Shaffer counsels students and families through her blog, Parenting for College. Her advice has been featured in print and online on Huffington Post, Yahoo Finance, U.S. News College, TeenLife, Smart College Visit, Road2College and more.
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