An internship is a short-term professional learning experience offered by a company or organization for a fixed period.
Internships began in the 11th century to help apprentices learn a trade. Today, there are an estimated 300,000 interns in the United States each year. Most Fortune 500 companies and jobs in the private sector pay interns. Fewer internships are unpaid or allow students to work for college credit.
The Benefits of Internships
Not only are internships a critical talent recruitment tool for employers, but they are also a stepping stone for people looking to launch their careers and decide where they might want to land.
“It’s essential to their career growth because it helps to build that foundational knowledge and get that experience in a particular area where their skills align or they feel as though they have transferable skills that they can help build upon,” says Jazmine Harrison, Associate Director, Diversity in Talent Acquisition at AT&T (a DiversityInc Hall of Fame Company). “It could be in finance, legal, communications or marketing. It also allows them to say, I thought I liked this particular area and maybe I don’t.”
As companies struggle with the current talent shortage, internships can help companies develop the next generation of workers. While approximately 70% of employers offer interns full-time jobs, up to 80% of students accept the offers.
“In four years, if you don’t hire these interns, two, three years down the line when we’re hiring, we can either have a pool of known quantities or we could do these 30-minute interviews to understand if we’ve got a 30-year employee on our hands,” says Ryan McClatchey, a Learning Manager in the Early Talent Management Group at Dow (No. 15 on DiversityInc’s 2022 Top 50 companies for Diversity list). “If you get them for a full summer, you get a lot more understanding on what that student is going to be capable of and how they behave in these settings.”
Paid internships can also play a role in improving diversity and the economic outlook for communities of color.
“If you put any student on an internship pathway, you improve the economic outcome of two things – the students themselves and the family – particularly those families that are despaired, such as minority families,” says Forest Harper, President and CEO of INROADS, a non-profit organization focused on training and developing underrepresented young talent. “We’ve tracked data that shows a student who gets a paid internship has a greater opportunity for a full-time job offer than students who don’t.”
How to Find an Internship
The COVID-19 pandemic upended the internship landscape. While companies either canceled their internship programs or shifted their internships into virtual programs, Dow made the conscious decision not to eliminate its internship programs. And despite the looming recession, the chemical company is not taking its foot off the pedal when it comes to pursuing talent.
“We realize that these innovative, creative, passionate students are extremely valuable to our future as we talk about decarbonization, our pursuit to be carbon neutral and our emphasis around environmental, social and governance,” says Emmitt H. Wooten Jr., NA Operations Early Career Development Director at Dow.
A multi-strategy approach can ensure the success of landing an internship. First, it starts with a solid resume. Job boards on sites like DiversityInc, Indeed, LinkedIn and Glassdoor are good starting points to search for openings. When writing a cover letter, tailor it to the internship and the company.
“What’s their mission? What are they selling? What do they do? Incorporate that into your cover letter along with your interests and become a more interesting candidate for the role,” says Kim Churches, President of The Washington Center, an organization that provides immersive internships and seminars to young professionals around the globe.
McClatchey says the key to applicants getting an internship is presenting themselves well.
“I always think of these internships like the dating experience,” he says. “As impressive as you want them to be to you, you need to be equally impressive to them.”