Give Your Child the Competitive Edge in the Job Market

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It can be an uncomfortable moment: Your son — on the cusp of graduating from college — shows you his resume and you discover the page is half blank. His college information consists of just three lines, and his name and contact details aren’t much longer. You know it’s probably passé to add his high school degree, and you feel that his experience of working part-time as a waiter isn’t apropos for the sales and marketing jobs he wants to pursue post school. Despite excellent Microsoft Word skills, you can only increase the font size and margins so much. It’s then when you realize that all the money spent on college, along with the stress of him getting his classes and good grades, are summed up in one-half to two-thirds of a sheet of paper.

So, what do you do? You console yourself that most college graduates must be in the same predicament. After all, how could they acquire the relevant professional career experience when they’ve been full-time students? The simple answer: via Internships. Unfortunately, by the time students learn about the value of internships, it’s too late; they’re graduating and looking for full-time jobs. It’s internships that will give college (and high school) students a competitive job employment edge. It’s internships that can inspire and empower your child with job skills. And, it’s internships that can guarantee that his or her resume is at least one page.

Having professionally written dozens of resumes and cover letters for clients, I have seen firsthand how beneficial internships are…and how little is generally known about them. Some students believe that because they have a degree from a highly accredited University that this automatically guarantees them a job. There’s that sense of entitlement. The problem is that thousands of college graduates looking for a job in a bad economy do not entitle anybody to anything. I’ve been invited to speak at high schools and educate students about the importance of encouraging children to assertively seek out opportunities that will differentiate them from their classmates, and I am always amazed by how excited they become.

What are internships?
Think of an internship as a trial job for a short period of time. What differentiates this internship job from normal jobs is that the student often 1) ideally works in his or her desired career industry (i.e. advertising, software), 2) earns college credit or, depending on the field, an hourly wage, and 3) has a predefined start and end date (i.e. a semester, or three to six months).

How early should you begin an internship?
Most students will pursue an internship during their last year of college; however, I would argue that they should start much earlier—and do more than one. In fact, why do they have to wait for college? I encourage high school juniors and seniors to begin developing their job portfolio as early as possible. While it’s true that teenagers usually won’t be hired by companies as interns, that doesn’t mean they can’t volunteer to complete projects for professionals. For example, if your teenager has expressed interest in pursuing website development or media arts (and has started learning the applicable technology!), why not have him offer to create a web page or a logo for a friend or professional that you know? Your child might pleasantly surprise you. If anything, doing these projects gives students something to talk about during college interviews. It’s a sample they can add to a portfolio. I am frequently asked to help high school seniors write their college application letters and scholarship essays. The essay questions do not ask students to list their grades or the classes they took. Many of them ask instead about students’ experiences and goals. Writing about past projects provides great content.

Why do companies hire interns?
There are many reasons why a company would want to hire interns — and, contrary to what some people might think, it’s not about free or cheap labor. Companies often use interns as an easy way to ‘preview’ prospective employees. They can quickly see if a person will ‘fit’ in their company, without having to worry about benefit plans, paid vacation, etc. Additionally, many companies enjoy the mentoring aspect of working with interns; in fact, you will often find there is a designated Intern Supervisor at the company. One of the most compelling reasons for seeking interns is that ‘real-life’ hasn’t, well, jaded them yet. College students are generally excited to graduate and start making money. They are ‘hungry’ for experience that will get them that dream job; they’re driven, they’re passionate, and they’re eager to please. They can bring fresh ideas and perspectives as well as knowledge about the latest technologies.

What kinds of companies hire interns?
You’d be surprised how many high-profile and Fortune 500 companies are seeking interns. In fact, many high-coveted jobs are available only to interns. One of my friends, for example, spent months trying to find a job in the entertainment industry. She recently decided to participate in the MBA program at a local University and within one week landed an internship — a PAID internship — as a media researcher for a top entertainment sports company. They have offered her a full-time position when she graduates.

How do I find an internship?
Most colleges will have a type of internship program or career center. Some companies will contact that college’s internship advisor and notify him/her of local internship positions. You can also refer to sites, such as http://www.internjobs.com/ and http://www.indeed.com, and find internships in all different industries.

What are all the benefits of internships?
When students participate in internships, not only will they be able to create a powerful resume, they will also have a better idea as to what they want to do for their career — one that fully embodies their academic or personal interests. Working for these companies gives them professional references and network contacts. They’ll also have relevant things to talk about at job interviews. In past jobs, I had the opportunity to oversee and mentor to groups of interns, and you almost literally see that ‘light bulb’ click on in their head when they discover the direct correlation between what they’re learning in school with what they’re doing on the job. It’s empowering for them, and it gives them confidence.

It’s surprising to me how I went through high school and college and was never once told about internships. When I was a freshman in my undergraduate program, my boyfriend (who later became my husband) opened my eyes to the internship world. He had had a lengthy one in college and landed one of the top-paying jobs in his industry. He would tell you in a heartbeat that it was due mostly to his internship experience. Throughout my college years, I had five internships, in different fields. One internship advisor wrote my recommendation letter for graduate school. Three of my internships gave me the hands-on experience that I still draw from today.

There’s that old saying that if you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life. Think of internships as a convenient time for your child to experiment and discover what career he would truly love. Helping to equip him with the tools early on in his professional journey will not only prepare him for the challenges and the adventure, but also give him the opportunity.

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Cori Linder has a Master of Professional Writing degree from USC and has worked as an editor and writer for almost 15 years in the software, high-tech, medical, mental health, and advertising industries. Contact her at editorcori@gmail.com. 
 

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