Don't Underestimate the Power of a Good Internship

It's a great way to test the waters and figure out what you truly enjoy

By Published on .

So you've recently graduated college and spent the summer traveling to recharge your batteries before entering the real world. Now it's officially fall and it's time to buckle down and get a job.

It's understandable that your first choice would be to find a full-time position—preferably one that allows you to tackle those looming student loans, show off fancy new business cards to friends and avoid moving back in with you parents. But before you settle for that first offer, you might want to consider a post-graduate internship at a company you admire.

Over the years, the word "internship" has developed a negative stigma — typically associated with routine coffee fetching, monotonous admin work and being completely ignored by full-time employees. Internships get a bad rap, but there's more to them than meets the eye (unless we're talking about the Vince Vaughn movie of the same name).

While every company values internships differently, some now offer paid positions for graduates that operate like full-time trial periods, giving you the opportunity to join a team and work on real projects, for real clients, with real deadlines. Instead of doing remedial tasks, you're given your own set of responsibilities and assignments. It's a test run to see if you can step up to the challenge and do the job—and if you're a good fit for a company.

These types of internships are equally advantageous for employees and employers. For full-time staff, interns are a perfect conduit for gaining mentoring experience, delegating tasks and improving leadership skills. For employers, interns yield a constant pipeline of fresh perspectives, enthusiasm and creative thinking (that can also be leveraged when working with clients targeting a younger demographic). Identifying, interviewing and training a full-time hire is time-consuming and expensive—especially when it doesn't pan out. Offering internships or trial periods as a way to vet potential hires is a safer, cost-effective and more natural way to hire, especially for companies that truly value cultural fit.

At Firstborn, nearly 20% of our staff started as interns. This approach to hiring is now inherent in our DNA and a fundamental part of our company, which is why we're highly selective in who we bring on board for post-graduate roles. To reinforce this process we reward internal referrals, and maintain relationships with leading colleges by attending portfolio reviews and career fairs. We also frequently speak to students at schools across the country and around the globe. For us, internships are a great way for both parties to gauge compatibility.

If you're feeling indecisive or dissatisfied with the doors your diploma is opening for you, research companies that value internships and give one a chance. Find a company that has a strong intern-to-staff conversion rate and a history of giving their interns real challenges they can grow from. The benefit of being young is you can take risks, experiment and see what's out there.

Internships are a great way to test the waters and figure out what you truly enjoy doing without being fully committed. This temporary commitment provides a safety net where you can openly decide if a company is the right fit for you.

No matter what, you gain valuable real-world experience and establish a more defined direction for your next career move. Best-case scenario: Finding a job you're excited about at a company you've built a relationship with that you hope to continue working for in the future.

So, why take a recruiter or a hiring manager's word for what it's like to work at their company? Dive into a post-graduate internship and find out for yourself. You may uncover an opportunity you didn't even know you were looking for.

About the Author

Brett Swanson is the Team Development Director at Firstborn, a creative and technology company in New York City. Starting at the agency as an intern, he spent five years creating award-winning digital experiences through his work as a 3D artist, motion graphics designer and audio engineer. The Univ of Florida grad is now focused on growing the agencies' innovative creative, strategy, production and technology teams."

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