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Making the Most From Interns and Internships

Many job applicants want a job but often do not have the prerequisite experience, experience that they can only have by getting a job. Managers who take the chance and hire them may have to spend considerable time and effort training them, only to find the new recruits unsuitable or unhappy with the jobs and looking for employment elsewhere.

One way around this problem for many organizations is an internship program. For professionals in career transition as well as students and recent graduates, such programs provide working experience that otherwise would never be supplied to someone interested in a specific field.

Types of internship structures range from full-time salary, minimum wage, stipend, and volunteer, to those in which the interns pay their employer for the opportunity. Most colleges and universities support internships for students matriculated in the institution or "work study" positions that do not necessarily constitute an internship but do provide financial compensation.

Students are trained at little or no cost to the employer. At the end of the internship, there is no further commitment, unless an employer feels that the intern may be qualified and capable for a full- or part-time job.

The Pluses... and Minuses: The value of offering student internships, the most common form of internships is broad and varied. From the student's viewpoint an internship offers the opportunity to explore career fields before committing to a major or graduate program and to strengthen skills and abilities. For those students who have a clear view of their future path, an internship provides the vehicle for increasing their possibilities of employment in their chosen field by building professional confidence, making contacts in their eventual field of endeavor, and bridging the resume gap between objectives and realities.

Fortunately for aspiring students, an internship program has real value for the many organizations and educational institutions that carry on internships on a regular basis. Interns contribute their energy, enthusiasm and intellectual curiosity to situations that are often in need of a fresh perspective. Many interns, through hobbies, talents and non-formal training, have bona fide knowledge and technical expertise in an area that they are more than eager to apply in the real world. They are ideally suited to take on special projects that a full time-personnel cannot be spared for, or to implement short-term projects for which it would not be cost-effective to permanently cover.

Unfortunately, whatever the level of the internship program, the concept is often either not utilized or under-utilized by organizations. Management is often unable or unwilling to commit time to the training and supervision of interns. It is believed that since interns are neither on salary nor permanent hires, they have little accountability to the organization. It is true, but the failing is very often that of management for not offering the interns projects and responsibilities which are anything other than intellectually menial. Since the intern pool is made up of individuals who need new experiences and challenges, and are seldom satisfied with rote typing and filing, a misplaced intern will leave or be continually late for work.

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