Summer is almost upon us.  I can tell because my third college student has spent her spring break completing website applications for a summer internship. Once forms were completed, she then went to the outlets to purchase a suit—just in case these one of these applications blossomed into an interview.  Her argument, “I need to be prepared.”

Internships, those valuable and sometimes hard to get positions in a company in your junior year of college, have been known to lead the way to full time employment. In fact, in the studies I have read, almost 70% of internships lead tofull time employment with 85% accepting the full time employment on the spot.  Another factoid, over 35% of a company workforce comes from an internship.

The Internship is also a conduit to make money—for the business with low-cost labor and for the college as the student pays the school for the honor to work over a summer to earn credits.  The college, in reality, does not have much outlay—except for an internship supervisor who may make one visit to the place of business to make sure the student is working.   It is also the easy and in-expensive way for a company to get the job done as some Internship positions work for free, or, if it is a benevolent company, at least minimum wage. 

When I first heard of “The Internship”  in the mid-1970s,  it was a new concept, as my Advisor said to me, “If you can find a company in your field of study and work for them over the summer, you can earn college credits--  12 credits for a full time position, 3 for a part-time position.”  There was no list of possible companies to approach.  It was up to me to find the job and establish the relationship and experience.

With the help of my mother, I did find an internship, almost immediately in the Public Relations Department of our local hospital where she was a Head Nurse of a Department. I met with the Director of Public Relations and together we outlined what would be expected. I came to that first meeting with notebook and pen in hand. Together, the Director and I wrote the job description, the expectations, and the outcomes.  I went home and wrote the proposal for my Professor, and a copy for the PR Director. 

In the Internship my responsibilities were to interview, write, edit and prepare the weekly in-house newsletter, write articles for the Quarterly magazine that would be due halfway through the summer, work with the graphic artist for the Magazine, and write media releases as needed.  The benefit was that I had my own 35mm camera and loved to photograph and develop my own photography.  I would be paid for the Internship, and accessible at all hours, with no comp time or extra compensation for any extra hours.  So when I stayed up overnight to interview and Photograph the Emergency Room Doctors and Nurses for the overnight Trauma Drill, or when I spoke at the local Lions Club on behalf of the hospital, I did not receive any extra pay or day off. I also still had to report on time the next day.   Instead, I did get dates with the ER Doctor and a reporter, and the Lions Club coincided with my 21st birthday, and the members helped me celebrate. Priceless.

Bottom line, as the Intern, I did not care. I was working in the Biz.  And it was quite the experience!  I had my own desk, phone, IBM selectric (yes, SELECTRIC) top of the line, and access to media.   As for the responsibility for my grades and 12 credits I would be earning, I kept a journal –aka diary—of my day-to-day experience. Oh, and my internship supervisor would visit with me and my supervisor, separately and together at least twice in the 13 Plus weeks I would be on-the-job.

As proof of my work, I developed my portfolio, on my own, keeping a box of my samples under the desk: Copies of the weekly newsletter that I wrote, took to the print office in the basement of the hospital, waited for it to be printed, then hand carried packets to each department and floor;  the magazine with my two articles including the interview for the introduction of Arthroscopic Surgery –an advancement in that day; and an article on the evils of smoking.  As for the journal/diary, I spent the night before the Professors’ visit, busily re-creating and remembering two months of work, changing pens and writing style to hide the fact that I did not complete that part of the agreement.

I did have great experiences.  I took part in a Quit Smoking class, I although I ever smoked, and vowed I never would after the display of  the black, falling apart lung of a 2-pack-a-day smoker, followed by the speech from a man with a breathing tube in his throat.  I was invited into the delivery room to see the birth of a baby.  After that experience,  I vowed that would never happen to me.  I broke that vow 3 times, but in my defense, I never watched my children being born, opting for curtain screens so I could not see what was ‘going on down there.’ To this day, this hospital takes Interns from my college.  I feel that I paved the way for the future.

Internships have become common place, in fact expected. Colleges have established internshipdepartments. These departments provide lists of companies that have sponsored previous students as well as arming the applicants with resume and cover letter, helping craft these tools to their maximum efficiency.  A student is also invited to pave the way if a business, not on the college list, welcomes an Intern—thus I assume—expanding the current college offerings.

A business that opens its arms to interns reap a variety of benefits.  College campuses are viral societies.  Impress one college intern and word of mouth will spread. Soon, you will be the most sought-after internship by the brightest of students.  An intern will increase productivity with an extra set of hands, if even for the short term. Plus an intern brings a different perspective to business, especially in the realm of social media, apps, and websites.  An internship is a great way to test the EI (Emotional Intelligence, see last months article) of the potential employee and make sure they fit into the culture of your business.

Let’s face it, there is one drawback.   College teaches the philosophy and the theory of business.  The real world does not work that way, and it is up to the business with an Intern to “show the ropes” and this is more than, “just go get us coffee missy.”  I have supervised many an intern, but it takes time on the part of the business to make sure the Intern is working properly.  In my field, when an intern writes a press release, there seems to be difficulty with spelling and sentence structure (single subject single verb comes to mind). In graphic arts,  although the Intern displays a beautiful and colorful portfolio of designs, that may be great, but, can it be printed?  Is there enough room for press grippers for bleeds, photography have the best resolution? And most of all, with the great design of die-cuts, varnish, inks, can it be printed economically?

I am envious of the opportunities for today’s students—whether they go to a Career and Technology School, College or both, the synergy between educational institutions and business is very important for to develop the workforce of tomorrow.  The combination of education, and hands on, real life experience in business as an Intern, leads to a life-long and rewarding career. 

Now excuse me, while I go find my intern to  fetch a Latte.