Posted July 30, 2014 by

5 Reasons Why Internships and Co-ops Are Essential!

Intern organizing shelves in supermarket under supervision of store manager

Intern organizing shelves in supermarket under supervision of store manager. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

If you’re a student, you might be looking into part-time jobs to make some money during the school year, or maybe a full-time job for the summer. While making money to help pay for school sounds like a good idea, it might end up costing you money in the long term.

The reason is simple: it’s getting harder and harder for university and college graduates to find a full-time job in their career path once they graduate—especially for those who do not have any practical work experience. It has become incredibly valuable for students to take co-ops during the school year and internships in the summer.

Here’s why.

Test out a career

This might be the most underrated aspect of internships and co-ops. When you’re still in school, you probably won’t have a firm idea of what you want to do for your career. Internships and co-ops let you try out various types of jobs and industries, so by the time you graduate you’ll either have found a job that you love or you’ll know which ones you don’t.

This can save you a lot of time and money, rather than only finding this kind of thing out after you graduate. The last thing you want to do is go through a number of different entry-level jobs trying to find a career that suits you, because it will mean you lose the money you’d get progressing down a career path and the time between finding new jobs.

Get practical experience

Your education is just not enough to impress employers, no matter how good your grades are—they want what you can do, not just what you might know. The best way to show employers that you can do what they’ll ask of you is to have practical experience in that field.

Internships and co-ops are really the best way to get this experience. You’ll be trained in new hard and soft skills, and refine skills you might already have, and you’ll be given some projects in order to show that you can succeed and excel with certain tasks. These are the things you add to your resume that employers will want to see.

Start networking

Most jobs now aren’t filled through job boards or other postings—they’re filled through internal promotions, referrals and recommendations. Taking internships and co-ops are a great way for students to build a network of professional connections before they even graduate from school.

If you establish a good relationship with co-workers and bosses, maybe they’ll look to you to fill an entry-level position that’s not even advertised. Or maybe they can tell you about somewhere else that’s hiring for a job opening that they think would suit you. Or maybe they can give you a great referral or recommendation for a job you’re applying to.

Make more money

There are two ways that internships and co-ops can make you more money.

First, if you find a paid internship or co-op they oftentimes will pay more than minimum wage, like most part-time and summer jobs do. According an annual survey done by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), the average hourly wage for interns ranges from $15.05 to $23.06 and the average range for co-op students is $15.17 to $26.82. These figures are only for paid internships and co-ops, and how much you’re paid depends on what industry you’re in (e.g., arts or sciences) and your student level (e.g., freshman or master’s student).

Second, students who participate in internships or co-ops tend to make more money when they get their first full-time job. Even back in 2005, employers paid entry-level candidates 6.5% more if they had internship or co-op experience than if they had none.

Get a job

The other great thing about internships and co-ops is that a lot of the time you wind up being offered a full-time job!

According to that same annual survey into internships and co-ops done by NACE, 64.8% of employers made full-time job offers to their interns and 56.8% made offers to co-op students. Of the 1,000 college graduates hired by General Electric every year, 70% of them have internship or co-op experience.

Now consider how the value in taking more than one internship or co-op—you’ll have more chances to test out jobs and careers, get training and practical experience, grow your network with professionals and managers, make more money, and get job offers.

It’s a train with which you’ll want to get on board.

Brian Stewart is a Career Content Writer at ResumeTarget.com. They are the only resume writing company that offers a professionally written resume, coupled with the guidance of recruiters, to guarantee that your resume will get results.

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