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Career Advice for Job Seekers

Are micro-internships, internships, apprenticeships, or co-ops best for job-seeking students?

Anita Jobb AvatarAnita Jobb
January 11, 2024


It is understandable that many college and university students don’t understand just how much value most hiring managers and others involved in recruiting place on experience as opposed to grades and other academic achievements. Certainly, many employers primarily hire based on the school, major, and even grades of the student but fewer do now than years ago and, even then, most employers declined to hire candidates without solid, work-related experience. In short, employers primarily hire for skills — often called skills-based hiring — as they hire people to do the job, not to attend classes or take exams.

But a pretty reasonable question that students ask is how they can get that experience if no employer will hire them. The answer is simple: micro-internships, internships, apprenticeships, co-ops, and other such roles that allow both the student and the employer to essentially try each other out temporarily before deciding whether to make the employment relationship permanent. Some refer to these experiential recruiting options as being essentially temporary-to-permanent, or temp-to-perm for short.

Students may wonder whether they’re best served by micro-internships, internships, apprenticeships, or co-ops. The answer is, it depends. There are many factors and to help us sort all of those out we gathered insights from nine hiring experts, including marketing managers and communications coordinators, to pinpoint the most beneficial programs for candidates. From the quick learning opportunities of micro-internships to the talent pipelines created by co-ops, here are the top nine perspectives on whether micro-internships, internships, apprenticeships, or co-ops reign supreme.

Micro-Internships Offer Quick Learning

Micro-internships are great for people starting their careers. They are short but packed with real work projects.

This means that in just a few weeks, you can create something real, like a business plan or a marketing strategy.

It’s a quick way to show your skills and learn about work. For someone new to the job world, this is a great way to get noticed and learn a lot quickly.

Marco Genaro Palma, Content Marketing Manager, PRLab

Apprenticeships Foster Industry Integration

Apprenticeships, in my opinion, are a unique and highly valuable experiential recruiting method. Apprenticeships provide students with an intense, long-term commitment that allows them to not only apply theoretical knowledge but also develop deep ties within the dynamic Silicon Valley ecosystem. 

Apprentices obtain vital mentorship by working directly with seasoned marketing professionals, learning the complexities of the industry, and developing a profound grasp of the school’s place within the greater tech environment. This extended exposure develops a sense of belonging, motivating students to contribute meaningfully and embrace the innovative culture.

Furthermore, apprenticeships enable a more complete integration of theoretical concepts into actual settings, paving the way for a new generation of marketing professionals who not only understand the tools but also value the strategic attitude required.

Enric Robert, Marketing Manager, Silicon Valley High School

Apprenticeships Highlight Certified Qualifications

Apprenticeships give candidates an edge over others in the job market. Their certified qualifications make them stand apart from other job aspirants. Moreover, if they have higher education degrees alongside apprenticeships, they will immediately seize the attention of recruiters. Some recruiters may even connect with them first and offer them jobs with appealing perks. 

As a result, they don’t even have to search for job openings as long as other candidates do. Even if they apply for jobs, they will have a greater chance of impressing the recruiters with their resumes. The recruiters will prioritize them due to their work experience and qualifications. After getting selected, employers may ask them to join directly without undergoing training programs.

Tom Vota, Marketing Director, Gotomyerp

Micro-Internships Assess Skills Efficiently

At our video editing company, I find micro-internships to be the most beneficial for experiential recruiting. They allow us to assess a candidate’s skills and compatibility with our team on short-term projects, minimizing risk. 

Micro-internships are cost-effective, providing quick insight into a candidate’s capabilities without a long-term commitment. This approach aligns with the ever-changing nature of the video editing industry, where adaptability and specific project skills are crucial.

Marc Bjerring, Co-Founder, Spivo

Co-Ops Provide Deep Skill Development

For understanding day-to-day workflows, networking broadly, and sampling diverse projects before specializing, micro-internships and shorter-term internships excel. However, for meaningful engagements, confidence building, and tangible skill development from being deeply embedded in more complex initiatives, longer co-ops and apprenticeships may prove more impactful. 

For example, an accounting micro-internship may involve basic financial analysis and shadowing multiple departments, granting exposure but little ownership. Whereas a dedicated six-month tax co-op could entail independently handling client accounts under close mentor guidance, driving hands-on public accounting experience, presentation opportunities, and higher potential for hire.

Eric Lam, Head of Business Strategy, San Francisco Tax Appeal

Internships Balance Depth and Duration

From a recruiter’s standpoint, internships typically offer the most comprehensive benefits for candidates. They provide an extended period for recruiters to evaluate a candidate’s performance, adaptability, and alignment with the company culture.

Internships offer a deeper immersion into the organization’s day-to-day operations, allowing recruiters to assess the candidate’s skills and potential for long-term success. While micro-internships offer quick insights and apprenticeships focus on skill-building, internships strike a balance, providing both breadth and duration.

This format enables recruiters to make more informed decisions about a candidate’s fit for the company. This makes internships the preferred choice when seeking a holistic understanding of a candidate’s capabilities and potential contributions to the organization.

Catherine Cooke, Co-Founder, Upskillwise

Co-Ops Combine Learning and Earning

I firmly believe that co-ops stand out as the superior choice for candidates. They offer a unique advantage by providing individuals from diverse fields with the opportunity to engage in more extended work experiences.

By immersing yourself in practical knowledge over an extended duration, you gain a depth of experience that proves invaluable in preparing for the most formidable challenges in your chosen profession. This holds irrespective of whether your expertise lies in a non-technical field, such as writing; co-ops are designed to accommodate a spectrum of disciplines.

The beauty of this extended period is that it translates into more than just professional growth. It brings about a sense of financial freedom. You have the opportunity to earn while you learn, creating a distinctive blend of academic and practical knowledge before completing your education.

Jack Vivian, Chief Technology Officer, Increditools

Co-Ops Enhance Professional Growth

In a co-op, you’ll likely work full-time during certain semesters and attend school part-time during others. Candidates pursuing extensive practical experience in their area of study will find this model extraordinarily advantageous. 

Co-ops typically offer more serious job assignments than standard internships, which boosts professional development to a greater extent. And they allow students to earn money as they learn, which is a win-win for everyone’s budget. Co-ops are particularly well-suited for fields where practical experience is highly valued, such as engineering or technology.

Cindi Keller, Communications Coordinator, The Criminal Defense Firm

Co-Ops Create Talent Pipelines

In my view, co-ops are a superior approach to experiential recruiting. These internships are well-organized, paid, and part of academic programs, typically lasting a few months to a year. Co-ops involve students alternating between work and study, offering a chance to gain deep experience, skills, and knowledge in a specific field.

This option is beneficial for both employers and students. Employers can access a pool of talented and motivated students, bringing fresh ideas and skills to their organization. Co-ops also help reduce hiring and training costs while establishing a pipeline of potential future employees.

Michael Branover, Business Development Manager, Branover Contractors Inc.

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