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Trend Alert: Interning After College Graduation to Gain Experience and Clarity

December 6, 2011

Lauren Suval recently graduated from Hofstra University and is an apsiring writer. In her spare time, you can find her enjoying the company of great friends, reading, or listening to Springsteen.

Student Blogger Lauren SuvalBy Lauren Suval

It’s Christmas and relatives are eager to make small talk over turkey dinner. So what are you doing now? they’d ask. That’s the infamous question posed to the college graduate in the family who’s heard this line one too many times before. Did you get a job yet? Are travel plans secured? Is grad school in the future? In response, the said college graduate responds that they’re currently interning, without paid compensation. The Uncle’s brow may furrow, but he heard it right: the current course of action is, in fact, interning after graduation. With the economy down and the job market as competitive as ever, that response is certainly not so uncommon.

Jon Krampel, 24, graduated from the University of Hartford in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in communications, an emphasis in media and advertising, and has completed five internships since. Anna Solo, 22, recently graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) with a degree in photojournalism, and has found an internship in the field she loves. Marina Charny, 22, a fresh graduate of Syracuse University, who studied English & textual studies/writing, has left a paid marketing position to pursue an unpaid internship at a literary agency.

“Internships help you build professional experience and that’s important because some companies won’t even talk to you unless you have some,” Susan Terry, director of the Center for Career Services at the University of Washington in Seattle told the Black Collegian.

“Internships are a good way to get experience doing what it is you want to do; it gets the kinks worked out before you go into the real world.”

According to an article posted on the Collegian’s site, Judy Rohde, owner of Career Development Services in Austin, Texas, proposes that internships are the gateways to jobs. “With an internship, you prove you have skills,” she said. “There’s only so much one can do with a resume after school, but with an internship on it, you look much stronger and more appealing to an employer. It shows you have a commitment to your field and that you’re willing to invest your time and effort to get ahead of the learning curve.”

“Internships are a good way to get experience doing what it is you want to do; it gets the kinks worked out before you go into the real world,” Solo said. As an unpaid intern at a film production company, Solo feels lucky that this opportunity came her way; she’s able to witness firsthand the process of documentary film-making. Although, as an intern, she does have to partake in typical mundane tasks, she characterizes her experience as “an internship of mutual respect.” “I do have to get milk or take out the garbage, but everyone does it.”

Solo notes how the issue of competency is another “pro” of the internship world as well. “They’re aware I don’t have so much experience. It’s good to know that I may not know production, but I don’t come across as incompetent.”

With regards to internships, Krampel believes that they not only help you learn what you want and what you don’t want to do, career-wise, but they help you learn more about yourself. After an internship at a music public relations firm, he realized that the office environment wasn’t for him, and he feels much more comfortable at his current internship, working with a booking agent at a music venue.

He advocates that the economy’s decline plays a pivotal role in why so many college graduates are interning instead of finding full-time employment. “Companies don’t want to hire; interns work for free… and you hope you get hired.”

According to The Intern Agency, internships are also gaining popularity in circles beyond post-college life. “With the current recession, even those who are unemployed have begun to take on internships as a way to get on the job training in fields where they’re hoping to begin a second career.”

Critics do suggest that time spent working without pay should be spent looking for a job. “This argument doesn’t take into account the reality that many of the unemployed are going in this direction because they have exhausted all other options in the field for which they are qualified,” the Agency stated.

There’s no doubt about it, internships seem to only be increasing in capacity. When Charny applied for her current position as an intern, she was told that previous internship experience on a resume is a plus.

“It seems like nowadays, you need to have an internship to get an internship to get a job,” she said. “Internships are a necessary evil; sometimes they work out for you and sometimes you have no future from them.”

It’s a gamble, however, many individuals are willing to take.

Thanks for your insights, Lauren! You can email Lauren here. What do you think about internships after graduation? Let us know in the comments!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Dante Hamilton December 7, 2011 at 10:32 am

Great article. However, I must criticize one thing: Interns must be PAID for their time.

I learned of this from downloading and reading “INTERNS:
A Basic Resource Guide for Employers.” See section IV, pages 20-21, B, 1: The “Federal Intern Test” The US Department of Labor is pretty clear on this but most interns likely have no clue this test even exists. Until now.

In my opinion, as an employer, Interns must not subject themselves to an outdated practice that essentially renders them as a temporary career slave just for obtaining “experience” they can put on their resume.

Employers will disagree with me on this, so what. Interns will still take unpaid assignments because that's how the system works, unfortunately. I am writing this mainly for the benefit of interns not to make things bad for employers.

The U.S. Department of Labor outlines six conditions that must be met for an internship to be unpaid. If those conditions are not present in that great opportunity, the company should be paying you. At the very least, minimum wage based on that state's minimum wage rate. I know there is debate about this and employers will slam me for pointing this out. No big deal.

Employers must come out and champion for interns and advocate they should be paid and not taken completely advantage of financially.

I subscribe to the fact Internships are a burden and drain on company resources. Internships are designed to ideally benefit the intern, not necessarily employers.

It is a burden for my company to train an Intern, who ultimately will get a job at another company, start their own business or become successful in their career. But I enjoy it. I know without experience an intern will not even get an interview. So, I personally do anything and everything to help my PAID interns get a leg up on the competition.

For instance, I setup free WordPress websites, purchase and register an interns' own custom domain name, and host their website free. Just a simple perk I offer that goes a long way. Especially for interns who need digital experience such as setting up a blog, website, content management system, etc to qualify for new opportunities.

That way when an ideal internship or job offer comes about and asks questions like: “Do you know WordPress?” Or, “Do you have any experience with blogs, website development, web hosting, etc?” My interns can answer: “Yes, at my last internship the company owner trained me on how to secure a website domain, install WordPress and setup a hosting account on Rackspace Cloud Sites for my personal blog, located here at”

Once a prospective employer sees that kind of reply they know immediately this person is results-oriented and prepped for that new opportunity.

I am hopeful someone will create a massive “internship fund” that allows employers to get grants and hire PAID interns to work instead of abusing them without offering pay under the current model.

Good luck to all the interns reading this. Don't become a victim of the system if you don't have to. Seek out those PAID internships.

Happy Holidays!

Dante Hamilton


Lopes April 13, 2012 at 12:32 am

Why don't you create the fund Dante Hamilton?


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