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VOL. 35 | NO. 14 | Friday, April 8, 2011

Internships offer key advantages

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Gaining an advantage over the competition is important in business. It also is also important in obtaining a job. Whether you are looking for a first-time job a new employer, working as an intern can help you land a job with an employer of choice.

Internships vary widely by industry and employer. They are found in large and small private businesses, nonprofit organizations and government agencies. They may be for the summer or anytime during the year. Some are paid and some are unpaid. Most every industry has internships at some level. Often, they are an integral part of the workforce.

Employers are aware of the advantages of using interns. They reduce the need and expense of fulltime employees and support the needs of departments needing immediate expertise.

Many managers see internships as one way to develop employees for the future. At the very minimum, it is a way to have talented people work for them inexpensively.

Managers don’t like to take risks. By hiring permanent employees that have already successfully worked for the employer as interns, managers reduce the chances of making a mistake.

Working with an employee over a period of weeks or months allows a manager to observe performance, work habits and attitude.

Internships can help you gain experience with an employer in your field. It is a way to continue training and education without having to pay. Even if an employer does not eventually hire you, valuable experience should be gained that can be applied elsewhere.

The great thing about working as an intern is that if you do a good job, when a position becomes available, even elsewhere in an organization, you have a tremendous advantage over those not working for the employer. Managers tend to hire people they know especially if they know they can do the job.

Getting an internship may be easy or hard depending on the employer, the industry, the state-of-the-economy or your qualifications. Some employers have a rigorous selection program with specific requirements. Others have minimum requirements.

When looking for internship positions, spend as much time on your resume and cover letter as you would for a full-time job. You still have to get the attention of the hiring manager. Just like for fulltime positions, most managers only spend a few seconds scanning a resume and accompanying cover letter. It must grab their attention right away.

Prepare for the interview in the same way as for a regular job. Be able to answer questions about your qualifications and accomplishments. Be able to explain what you can do in the position. Be prepared to ask appropriate questions about the position’s duties and what would be expected of you.

Determine whether you can and want to perform the job. You don’t want to end up in a situation where you are unhappy.

Treat the internship job like you would if you were full-time. Be professional. Dress like the full time employees. Ask to be evaluated periodically. Look to improve your performance. Become an asset.

There are different ways to find employers that want interns. Looking at employer websites is one way. Another is calling a company’s human resource department and asking. Publications like Peterson’s Internships lists hundreds of employers that hire interns. Sometimes just calling a department manager and discussing what you can do can lead to an interview and a position.

Evaluate your situation to determine if an internship is a good move for you.

M.B. Owens is a Nashville-based columnist and journalist with a decade of experience writing on employment topics and business. He can be reached at mariusowens@aol.com.

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