I did not see the true value of an internship until I found myself looking for a job at the height of the financial crisis. With the economy plummeting and businesses reluctant to hire, not only did I get work as an intern, what I learned during previous internships helped me secure a full-time position.
If you’re currently a student or have recently graduated, you may be feeling the pain of looking for a full-time position. My story will highlight the value of doing an internship and what you should look for when considering your options.
I graduated from Bentley University in Massachusetts in 2009 with a double major in Marketing and Media Arts. Traditionally, Bentley alumni are almost guaranteed to find work: 96% have a full-time job within six months of graduating. In my year, that figure had slumped to 43% and the majority of those were from the school’s highly regarded Accountancy and Finance programs. I guess when businesses are facing economic meltdown they still need accountants to calculate how much money they’re losing.
I had started applying for jobs and attending career fairs in February of my senior year without much luck. After graduation, I moved back to my parent’s house in San Jose and spent the summer applying for the limited number of jobs I saw advertised. It was a depressing process. As the weeks wore on, the hope that used to accompany each application was replaced by the feeling that I was simply sending my resume to a different black hole.
To earn some money, I took on a variety of part-time jobs, including babysitting. Through this I met Tammy Bieter, a Senior Finance Manager at Hightail. She introduced me to the company’s marketing team and in May 2010 I was offered an internship (the existing intern was moving into a full-time role).
I had done a couple of internships while still at college, but it was only now that their value became truly apparent. At TiVo I had worked on traditional marketing projects, but what changed everything was a simple piece of advice my manager gave me: get experience doing social media.
This was back in 2008. Facebook and Twitter were in their infancy and social media marketing wasn’t something we covered at college. Despite my limited experience using Facebook personally, I was able to secure a social media internship at the analyst firm Forrester where I learned all about this fast-emerging space.
When I joined Hightail, the company’s underdeveloped social media marketing was a perfect project for an intern, especially as my previous experience meant I didn’t need much training or supervision. I still had a lot to learn and spent my time analyzing what other businesses were doing and attending social media events.
Few people at that time understood the potential of social media marketing, so I also had to persuade the company that it was an area worth investment. My pitch worked and six months later, I was made Hightail’s full-time Social Media Manager and it is now a crucial part of Hightail’s marketing and communications efforts.
These days, internships at Hightail are much more organized than when I first swam in the deep end. Interns learn by doing with close support from their team and a common practice is for the intern to work on projects that have more of an eye on the future than the company’s immediate needs. Based on my experience, this can be hugely important. I was given free reign in social media marketing because it was new and allowed me to gain valuable skills in a growing area.
When you’re choosing an internship for this summer, remember you’re working toward the future. Keep an open mind about what you’ll be doing and don’t focus everything on being involved in a company’s current big thing. Instead look for experience in areas that have the potential to explode so by the time you graduate, you’re perfectly placed to be part of the boom.
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