the importance of an internship

Where I went to college part of the curriculum was an internship.  The first semester of my senior year I went to work at Robinsons in Los Angeles as an assistant buyer in the mens
department.  The professor who was the head of the retail division had
relationships with every major retailer in NY, Boston, SF, Chicago and
LA.  He placed all of us into internships where we got full credit for
the semester and were given an opportunity to work in the jobs that we
would apply for after graduation.   

For me, it was brilliant
because I have been working since I got my drivers license (16) and I
preferred work to anything else.  What was also genius about the program
is that there were more than a handful of people that came back for the
last semester of college with the realization that this was not a
career that they had any interest in pursuing.  Certainly saved those
people a lot of time and energy. 

The generation of kids that are
in college now and are recent graduates have grown up with instant
feedback.  There is no need to wait for anything.  You post on Instagram
and you get immediately likes, you buy a new book and it is on your
kindle instantaneously without having to go to a book store and look
through the aisles, and of course there are tons of other examples.  
This generation also has a desire for constant reinforcement.  From
their parents who have never let them fail to the quick like that goes
up on Facebook.  Instant feedback and constant reinforcement are tied together but that is not what work life is like. 

importance of an internship is now more important than ever.  I am well
aware that very few of these internships are paid although that appears
to be changing due to law enforcement.  There is a saying that there
would not be an internet without internships and that is totally true
but I do hope that as many of the start-ups grow or even when they are
relatively small that they make sure to bring on interns. 

can be like making a mistake.  You learn from your mistakes and you
learn what you want to do or don't want to do from an internship.  I
have seen kids who thought they wanted to do one thing after school and
then ended up in a job that they never thought made sense for them and
ended up loving it or sometimes hating it.  I see my own kids as they
have all had several internships with a variety of different companies. 
Each has been unique, each has been an education, each has opened up
their eyes to the working world and what that really means, and more
importantly it has taught each of them what they really enjoy doing vs
something that they can just do. 

If you can give someone an
internship, do it.  If you can get one and can afford to do it for the
experience, do it.  I am a huge fan of the internship. 

Comments (Archived):

  1. Anthony Serina

    That is the problem with internships though, you have to be able to afford it. The experience is so valuable and truly different from a classroom. I believe an internship is one of the most important parts of an education – right after making new friendships. But when schools range from $100K – $200K most kids have to wait tables just to get by. Now they leave with loans and less experience. Internships to me are another example of the income gap in America.

    1. Gotham Gal

      I agree. Internships should at least get minimum wage payment. It would be a game changer.

  2. Susan Rubinsky

    I am a small business owner, yet I hire interns whenever I can. It’s not always steady work but I believe in paying a decent rate. I also see it as an opportunity to help mentor someone who may work with me in other capacities at some later point. There is nothing better than helping guide and shape raw talent.

    1. Gotham Gal

      good for you.

  3. Liz Rueven

    College students should check with their home universities early in the fall semester to see if they help students by subsidizing internships. Brandeis University does, and it makes all the difference for those students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to consider working for free.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Brandeis is very “business” driven which makes that University very unique.

  4. Jonathan

    Recognizing the importance of internships, some colleges will subsidize their students. Connecticut College in New London, for example, will fund any rising Senior up to $3,000 for a career related internship. It was one of the reasons we liked the school for our youngest daughter who will be a Sophomore.As a parent of a recent college graduate, I view internships as a fifth year of school. But while we are lucky enough to make this happen, kids graduating without finances or housing available are in a very difficult position. Part-time jobs can help (and are a good idea generally for kids in internships) it still requires more than that to survive in NYC, LA or Chicago.Internships are a necessary part of the hiring process these days. Sure, they provide cheap or free labor, but the interns can get a lot out of it — contacts, an inside knowledge of what the field is really like (both good and bad), and maybe even a job. Unfortunately some firms abuse and churn interns, knowing there will be a line of kids willing to take their place.

    1. Gotham Gal

      there is a saying in the internet business. there would not be an internet if it wasn’t for interns. so i agree, people take full advantage of interns because they know there are more where they came from.

  5. brendan_mcnulty

    i studied in South Africa where there is no internship, but worked in the Netherlands where it is a structured part of the tertiary education process. Within your degree you have two required internships of 3 months and 6 months. It’s interesting to get people with a fresh perspective in, and very useful for them to understand how companies work. When my kids are old enough I will definitely have them getting hands on internship experience.

    1. Gotham Gal

      There are a few colleges that make internships part of the process. I am a huge fan.

  6. ShanaC

    The intern model needs to change first. I’ve seen companies (big companies) effectively break the law. There are 0 protections from harassment. Adults intern forever with no hopes of a job after.Part of me thinks we should move back to more realistic job training with pay, when way we used to. It makes for more effective employees rather than a set of free ones with no obligations to you based on skirting the law.

    1. Gotham Gal

      skirting the law on interns makes zero sense to me. skin in the game, skin in the intern makes more sense and a more productive intern.