Four myths and misconceptions about internships

intern.jpgThe days when interns spent much of their time fetching coffee or filing obsolete records are long gone. Increasingly, employers see internships as a vital tool to find and train new talent. For employees, internships provide a way to get a leg up in a competitive job market.

Still, myths persist about the need or importance of internships — both from employers and employees. Here are a few common misconceptions.

Would-be interns:

Must work for free?

Obviously, no one wants to work for free. Increasingly, interns are being paid for their labor — often times quite well. For instance, a recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that the average hourly salary for bachelor’s degree-level interns was $17.20. For master’s degree-level interns, the hourly rate was $23.83.

"My degree will open doors"

It’s the age-old conundrum: You need experience to get experience. Internships are a good way to do just that. The Chronicle of Higher Education found would-be employers placed more weigh on experience — with internships being listed at the top of importance — over academic achievement when deciding whether to hire a recent graduate.

“With internships, employers get to test drive the talent,” said Kevin Daly, a regulatory affairs consultant and chair of the San Diego Regulatory Affairs Network’s internship committee. In fact, NACE found that 71 percent of employers surveyed said the goal of their internship program was to convert students into full-time, entry-level employees.

Would-be employers:

It’s not worth the hassle?

Some employers shy away from offering internships because they see it more as babysitting than offloading work duties. Daly used to harbor such notions — that is, until he hired his own intern. “It helped me focus on critical parts of my job,” he said. The key is to figure out what work can be delegated and then creating a system with proper oversight, Daly said.

"Let’s just hire a temp"

Sure, you could go the temp agency route, but why? Daly said temps often cost as much, if not more than, interns — and they often don’t have a passion for the industry.

“Interns are hoping that this turns into a full-time career, whereas with a temp agency you won’t have that same focus," he said. Plus, it creates a pipeline of entry-level talent that your business needs to grow.

The key to a successful internship is to take the initiative and do the best you can. It is your chance to learn, contribute, and develop skills and behaviors you'll use throughout your future careers. Plus it's a way for potential employers to discover the many talents you have to offer.

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