Why internships are more critical than ever to landing the perfect job

As a college student, I am constantly bombarded with questions and concerns about my career path, what I am doing to enhance my résumé, and being  reminded of  how tough it is for recent college graduates to secure a job. These questions are coming not only from my Career advisor, but also from my parents, professors and even my friends.

  • “Did you hear that Jimmy got a fall internship with Merrill Lynch?”
  • “What do you mean you’re vacationing this summer?! Shouldn’t you be working?”
  • “A 3.9 GPA isn’t good enough! You need the experience or you’ll never get the job!”

If you’re like me, the above may sound all too familiar. Anyone and everyone is saying you need to get an internship by the summer of your Sophomore year, or your life is over.

While that may be melodramatic, the truth is that they are right. More and more, internships are becoming the preferred recruitment tool of big firms around the world. From Finance to Fashion, from Accounting to Advertising, the world’s most desirable firms are securing talent long before graduation, often following an internship in the summer of their Junior year.

Anecdotal evidence suggests this to be the case. I recently chatted with a group of Seniors at Fordham University, with interesting outcomes. Three Seniors had already secured jobs following their graduation (regardless of their GPA) at Barclays Capital, Tiffany & Co and a hedge fund. All three credited their job placements to successful internships at their respective firms over the past summer. On the other side of the spectrum, the other two Seniors were beginning to fret about graduating without any idea of where they go next. Both Seniors confided in me that they wished they had been more proactive in securing internships at an earlier stage in their college lives.

The steps being taken by firms across the globe suggest these are not isolated cases. KPMG, the Big 4 Accounting firm, has introduced a pilot, school-leaver’s program in the UK, which brings on students before they even begin University, signing them up to a seven year contract. Over the duration of this period the firm will sponsor the students through an Accounting degree, and then employ them full-time, allowing them to complete their ACA professional Accounting qualification. KPMG estimates that by 2015, of their annual recruitment tally of roughly 1100 graduates, the School Leaver’s program will account for up to 700 of these places. The other Big 4 firms are introducing similar schemes on the back of KPMG’s successful trial.

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Myself at KPMG, London, where I undertook a 9 month internship in 2010 (2nd from left)

In what now seems like eons ago, a college degree from an established institution was the golden ticket to a glittering professional career in whatever industry a graduate desired. Times have changed, and so must students’ approaches to finding the right job. With the notable exception of the Tech industry, industries are saturated with highly qualified talent pools, and differentiating oneself from the millions of potential candidates around the globe is becoming increasingly difficult.

Internships are the best way a job applicant can impress any potential employer, offering the candidate a chance to prove they have the skill set to grow into the role, and impress potential colleagues who can then offer gleaming references to impress your interviewer. Furthermore, internships offer students a glimpse of what the subsequent 30/40 years of their career could look like, without making any major commitments.

With applications already opening for summer 2013 internships, now is the time to be proactive and take a major step in securing your future success.

Why are you still reading this blog post?! Get applying, now!!

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