Everyone Wins With Internships

Dec. 21, 2004
Making connections benefits employers and employees.

Many corporations have internship programs. Some offer practical, on-the-job work experience. Many pay their interns. Many others reward them with glamour, excitement, and other forms of psychic compensation. Companies have internship programs for a variety of reasons. They can be as diverse as identifying attractive candidates for employment, finding free or low-pay personnel to do the grunt work full-time employees prefer not to do, or to allow the chief executive to return favors to friends or customers by employing their sons and daughters. My former company has an effective internship program. It hires interns because of their interest in media as a career. They are selected after careful evaluation of their academic achievements and, more importantly, because of their intense extracurricular interest and participation in our types of media. Our interns are paid the full starting rate for their specific assignment whether it is writing, editing, research, promotion, marketing, sales, or other. Proof that it works is the surprising number of those interns who want to work for our company following their graduation from college. Internship programs can be fruitful or they can be failures. Unless they have some benefit for the intern (as well as the company), they are failures. A 1994 survey by Northwestern University reported that 26% of the hires of United States corporations were people who had served internships. That's 17% higher than the previous year and the trend is growing. Some internships are job-specific and serve as postgraduate education in a "chosen" profession. Some are merely fun experiences that allow interns to work in a glamorous environment while they're making up their minds which career to pursue permanently. Some look better than others on a resume. Resume Roulette is a game all corporations play. AT&T, for example, receives more than a million resumes each year. The average number received each week by major corporations is 1,000. The Washington Post estimates that the amount of time human resources managers say they spend reading resumes is 30 seconds to four minutes. Internships vary in responsibility, glamour, and pay. There are attractive internships out there if excitement is what the intern is seeking. Mark Oldman and Samer Hamadeh, co-authors of America's Top Internships (Random House/Princeton Review Books, 1998) and The Internship Bible (Random House/Princeton Review Books, 1998) have compiled a list of "dream" internships. Four of their top picks:

  • Baywatch:The television show offers a 16-to-22 week internship to three or four interns a year to work in production, casting and editing. No stipend. Plenty of psychic income: A chance to learn the basics of television production, rub elbows with the sit-com stars and enjoy the atmosphere of sunny California.
  • Dallas Cowboys: The professional football teams accepts up to 16 interns each year. Internships last 10-14 weeks and run the summer, fall and spring. Interns work in public relations, marketing, television, sales, promotion and the ticket office. Interns get a $300-to-$500 stipend but also free Cowboy wear-fare as well as invitations to social events.
  • The Late Show With David Letterman: The show selects 30 interns each year to serve 14-to-16-week internships during the spring, summer and fall. Interns might work in talent, research, production, writing, music or assist the Pet and Human Trick coordinator. Be forewarned: The busywork quotient is high. No pay but the perks include Late Show paraphernalia, occasional opportunities to perform in one of the show's skits, and the chance to chat-up celebrities and, occasionally, David Letterman himself.
  • Peggy Guggenheim Collection: The art museum accepts 90 interns each year to fill 4-to-12-week internships. Interns open and close the galleries, sell catalogs and tickets, check bags, staff the checkroom, help administrative staff, and assist with special events. Interns get the equivalent of $650-to-$800 a month, participate in discussions, lectures and field trips and are invited to attend the Venice Biennale, the world's oldest art event.
Almost 80 percent of all jobs are found through some kind of connection or relationship. The best way to find their places in the working world is to work at it. Networking is the best career path to success.

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