by Sarah K. White

7 reasons tech internships pay off

Nov 09, 2015
CareersIT SkillsMentoring

In today's competitive market, college students need to make sure they have a leg up on the competition when it comes time for their job search. Here are seven reasons to get an internship in tech before graduation.

Tech internships pay off

Internships are a great way to get experience on your resume before you graduate, which can make the post-grad job search easier and give you an edge against the competition. And interns — both past and present — agree, with nearly 71 percent of students stating that internships should be mandatory, according to a 2015 report on the State of College Hiring from Look Sharp.

Look Sharp offers an internship and job search resource for students, and earlier this month it published a report evaluating extensive feedback from more than 50,000 college students and recent graduates to highlight internship and employment trends. The study found overwhelmingly that students who completed internships had better success after graduation and, overall, were happier in the careers they chose. Here are seven ways an internship in tech will help leverage your college degree to find a job after graduation.

You’ll be more prepared after graduation

You'll be more prepared after graduation

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Sure, an internship might cramp your schedule, and rob you of precious free time you could otherwise spend with friends. But an internship is an amazing opportunity, so the best thing you can do is treat it as one. Rather than viewing your internship as an annoyance or something you are just doing for your resume, embrace the experience as a great way to make a first impression in the tech industry. You never know who you’ll meet, even during a short stint with a tech company and the contacts you make can help you with your job search after college.

“Working hard and making those great impressions on people can help keep your foot in the door and can set you up for success either at that company or another down the line. The tech industry is large but small at the same time. You end up running into former colleagues eventually and one day those folks can help you out if you ever need it,” says Nick Gonzalez, a former student who completed an internship for a tech PR company.

You’ll also have a better idea of what jobs exist in the tech industry and what jobs you’ll want to actually apply to after graduation. According to the study, a little over 77 percent of students surveyed said that their internships helped give them more insight into what they really wanted out of their future career. Whether it helped confirm they were on the right path, or made them reevaluate their future career, internships were a valuable resource in planning for the future.

You’ll learn to network

You'll learn to network

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When it comes time to find an internship, you won’t need to spend hours sending out resumes and crossing your fingers that it will land on someone’s desk. Take a minute to consider people you know from summer jobs, school and family friends who might be able to put in a good word for you or connect you with opportunities. Networking isn’t a cop out from applying through traditional mediums, and it’s actually how many people find jobs after graduation.

When Gonzalez was looking for his first internship, he says his network invaluable. “I was lucky enough to find my internship through a place I was employed at, at the time. I worked at a country club, with many members being well-connected in their respective businesses. I had a very good relationship with many of them, so when the time came to start looking for internships, I reached out.”

And you won’t be alone in using your personal network to find an internship. According to the study, two of the five most used resources to find an internship are friends and family. Don’t be shy about asking around, most people will be more than happy to help you get started on your career path.

You’ll learn how to find a job

You'll learn how to find a job

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In the study, students who had completed three or more internships were shown to have a better grasp on the different job search tools and resources. Whether it was online searches, specific company websites or leveraging personal networks, students who completed internships overall had a stronger grasp of where to find job openings.

If you find you aren’t getting the responses you want from potential internships, don’t give up. Ultimately, all the leg work you put in to finding internships will translate to your post-college grad search. You can figure out how to write cover letters, update your resume, face rejection and get comfortable going on interviews without the added pressure of finding your first full time job.

“Be persistent in your search, but also be reasonable. If you haven’t had any prior experience you might consider taking a non-paid position and over time, when you’ve proven your value, open up the discussion about compensation,” says Samantha Subar, who started out at Spredfast as an intern and is now a full-time employee.

You’ll gain work experience

You'll gain work experience

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When it comes time to find a job after graduation you might be surprised at how many jobs are entry level, yet still require some level of work experience. This can be frustrating for job seekers who didn’t take the time to get any relevant work experience during college or high school. But the study found that students who completed internships were able to update their resumes and LinkedIn profiles with all the experience they gained on the job.

That was the case for Subar, who gained valuable experience at her internship, “I had the opportunity to organize a series of events in partnership with Google. I reached out to the executives, organized the prep calls, sent the invites and coordinated the event. I learned a lot about all of the little logistics that add up and feed into the big picture.”

The work experience you gain from your internship is a great way to show potential employers you’re ready for a full-time gig. Just think, when your resume lands on the desk of a hiring manager at your dream job, you’ll stand out among other students who can only list classwork and summer jobs under experience. And while side and summer jobs are great, the Look Sharp report found that “side jobs had some influence on job offers, but not quite to the extent of GPA scores, internship experience and paid internships.”

You’ll be able to test run the ‘real world’

You'll be able to test run the 'real world'

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Heading into the “real world” can be a rude awakening as you go from one class on Fridays to a daily 9-to-5 schedule each week. Internships are a great way to get a feel for what you can expect when working in the tech industry.

“From the outside, it can seem like tech is just one series of perks after another. But the actual day-to-day experience of tech is both way more exhilarating — you’re working on stuff that essentially becomes the future,” says Jeremy Schifeling, who has interned at Apple and now coaches students looking to break into the tech industry.

The more internships you complete, the better you can judge what type of company you want to work for after graduation. And according to the report, the more internships a student completed, the more likely they were to get a job offer after graduation. The earlier you can start, the easier it will be to get multiple internships under your belt; the report suggests sophomore year as the best year to start.

“There’s no way I would have felt prepared for the demands of a full-time job if I hadn’t had that experience under my belt, reminding me that I could be an effective player in this space,” says Schifeling.

You might get paid

You might get paid

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You might want to be discerning about what internships you take, because the report also found that students who landed paid internships were three times more likely to receive a job offer than their un-paid counterparts. It found that students with unpaid tech internships were just as likely to get a job offer after graduation as students that didn’t complete an internship at all.

Your ability to get a paid internship will likely vary with your major and degree, but students in technology focused majors are the most likely to land a paid internship. According to the report, 79 percent of engineering internships, 78 percent of computer science internships and 78 percent of technology internships are paid. “There are plenty of paid internships out there, you just have to look for them. Don’t allow yourself to work for free. Sure it’s great to get the work experience, but it’s your time and you need to get paid for your time and work,” says Gonzalez.

You could be happier at your first full time job

You could be happier at your first full time job

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If you’re passionate about your field, you might be dead set on one career path that you’ve idealized over the years. But sometimes, jobs just don’t live up to our expectations, and internships are a great way to test run your dream job. You might discover you absolutely love the job, or you might realize it’s definitely not for you. Better to figure it out in a low-risk situation, rather than after landing your first full-time job after graduation.

And the data holds up, with 77 percent of students reporting that they ultimately changed their career paths after completing internships in either minor or major ways. As a result of this, students that completed internships were more likely to report satisfaction at their first professional job than students who didn’t complete an internship.