Attention Job Seekers: The Importance of Internships

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Modern Luxury Media's Director of Marketing, Samantha Saifer, with her interns

The current trend to get accepted in graduate school is to already have had internships in the area you are seeking to get a degree. It's not enough now to just pay your money.  Internships are the hottest ticket in town!   They are essential in this sluggish economy, both for the experience and networking potential.

Most internships are unpaid or at a minimal wage.  Some internships are valid for college credit, other are not. But, one thing all internships have in common it that they give a job seeker direct experience in their given field and an opportunity to meet people in their industry.

It seems to me that a college student can't afford not to work toward getting an internship to get into the job market.  And, others that are at an impasse in their career also need to consider securing an internship.  It truly is the best way to network.

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Samantha Saifer and the CS magazine interns

I spoke with Samantha Saifer, Director of Marketing for Modern Luxury Media here in Chicago, about her experience and thoughts about internships.  She said, "I think interning is incredibly important!  When I was in college, I spent every summer as an intern at People magazine and Conde Nast.  It gave me a sense of proper office etiquette early on and helped me transition from college to the work world."

Ms. Saifer was influential in starting an internship program on CS magazine, seeing there was a need for interns to help with the increasing work load at the publication.  She believed that having an internship program would be beneficial for both the interns and the magazine.  In fact, one of the better interns had the opportunity to work with the publisher of CS magazine.  How would you get this opportunity without an intern program?

She just filled a position on her marketing team with an intern with whom she was impressed with.  The job opening never hit the job boards!  This is not the first time that a job has been filled by an intern at the magazine.  They value their interns and try to help them whenever they can.

At first Ms. Saifer went to universities to find interns, but now most of them are found through referrals.  Every company finds interns in a different manner, so check with your university, get referrals into companies you may want to work and go directly to the company's websites for potential intern opportunites, then call.

Ms. Saifer offered some great tips for interns when they do get in a company.  She said, "Treat the internship like a job interview.  Even if you are not getting paid the company is watching what you do.  Be flexiible and work really hard. Lastly, distinquish yourself from the other interns by asking for projects."

One final thought.  I have heard of some places trying to charge potential interns for the opportunity to work at a company to gain expereince.  My advice is to stay away from these firms and focus on a company that values its interns. 

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  • Great article, I would add that if you are looking for internships in a creative field, be wary of sketchy operations that don't feel quite right. Often, companies not typically structured in a "corporate" environment, turn over interns like hotcakes, because they could care less about giving you opportunities or any real program to work in. They get intimidated by interns who show initiative because they don't want to give them the idea they expect actual career related work from them. It's more along the lines of picking up dry cleaning, getting coffee, going to find cars they were too drunk to drive home from the night before etc. The creative industry is NOTORIOUS for getting by on free work. It's practically built into their business structure. So be sure to ask what career related insight/opportunities they are willing to offer. And for god sakes watch out for venues seeking interns. If your passing fliers out on a street for a comedy show, or a band, that's not a marketing internship. That's labor that you should be paid for! Lakeshore Theatre (before they went out of business) was notorious for breaking the law regarding internships.

  • In reply to jeffschear:

    Thanks, Jeff. Great information for job seekers looking at internships. They need to look for legitimate places to intern that have programs in place. Picking up dry cleaning sounds like that poor girl in the movie, "The Devil Wears Prada"! And, she was paid!

  • In reply to jeffschear:

    Sure, internships are important. But out of the three (or 4 if you want to count my current "temporary" gig) I've done, none have lead to a full time job.

    They're good on paper and that's about it. I'm not a big fan of working pro-bono... unless of course you're some scum bag attorney (cough, my brother, cough) who makes 6 figures.

  • In reply to drewkent23:

    So no job from the internships, but you've met people to network with, yes? You should be able to get introductions that will at some point lead to a job or try interning in another industry that has more job openings.

  • In reply to drewkent23:

    Internships truly are more important than ever right now. With this economy it is nearly impossible to get a job right out of college. The ratio of jobs to applicants is just too large. I

  • In reply to GregL1:

    Thanks for the comment, Greg. Getting an internship is one of the most important steps you should tak when trying to break into the job market. It's the best way to network even if the company you are working for doesn't hire you. TLR

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