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Intern or DieIf you’re a student or recent graduate looking to gain more than just the average classroom-based experience, it’s time to believe the hype — internships really are a gateway to career success.

You’ve probably heard it more times than you can count, but your internship experience — or lack thereof — can make or break your chances of landing an entry-level job. It’s time to drop your list of excuses and just go for it already. Consider that 24.9% of students complete their first internship during their sophomore year of college, and a competitive 17.4% complete an internship in high school.

So, what are you waiting for? Here are six reasons to begin your internship search today:


1. Your Degree Isn’t Worth as Much Without Experience

Unfortunately, a college degree and a good GPA aren’t all that enticing to today’s employers. If you’ve got a resume and portfolio laden with only classroom experience and part-time jobs, you may be in trouble. In fact, a recent survey found that 62% of business leaders with hiring responsibility felt someone with no college degree but some work experience would fare better in the workforce than someone who has a diploma but no work on their resume.

Make sure you catch the eye of employers during your entry-level job search by taking on as many internships as possible during and even after college. You’ll not only be able to add something to your resume; you’ll also gain hands-on experience and actually put your classroom knowledge to use.


2. Connections Matter When It Comes to Hiring

Sometimes kickstarting your career really is about who you know. While you may not be focused on landing your first job right now, building a strong network of inside connections could open the door to a number of opportunities in the future. Some food for thought: Research shows 31% of job seekers say a referral from professional or personal contacts got them their current job.

One great way to expand your network past personal connections is by taking on an internship. You’ll be able to meet a number of new professional connections upon whom you can leave a  lasting impression. If you showcase passion and dedication, chances are these new connections will offer a reference or referral for employment or internship opportunities in the future.


3. Finding Your Dream Career Often Involves Some Trial and Error

Just because you think you’d love a career in marketing and communications doesn’t mean you truly will. This is an often-overlooked reason why internships are so important: They’re your chance to test-drive your potential career or even a specific company. (Click here to tweet this thought.)

Your internship could be the arrow that points you in the right direction for your career or professional development. In fact, a recent InternMatch survey found that 15.1% of interns said their internship significantly changed their future career.


4. More On-the-Job Skills Will Give You Competitive Headway

In a recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, some of the skills ranked highest by employers were the ability to work in a team structure, the ability to make decisions and solve problems, and the ability to communicate with persons inside and outside the organization.

Now ask yourself this: Are these skills easily obtained without hands-on experience? Probably not. By interning, you’ll be able to fine-tune the skills employers want to see early on by experiencing teamwork in a real company setting, problem-solving to meet internship goals, and communicating with your peers and company audiences.


5. Internships Actually Lead to Jobs

Research shows that internships are a major factor that dictates whether or not you get hired post-graduation. But it’s far more likely you’ll get hired after participating in a paid internship. According to another survey by NACE, 60% of 2012 college graduates who took part in paid internships received at least one job offer. Those who took on unpaid positions didn’t fare so well.

When looking for employment, you may even find yourself back at the company with which you initially interned for round two. My company’s internal research shows 54% percent of summer 2013 interns said they’re going to work at the same company again.


6. You Can Get Paid to Learn and Grow Professionally

Recently, unpaid internships have received a lot of backlash due to a number of high-profile lawsuits. It’s important to note that unpaid internships aren’t a rite of passage into any industry, and you should never settle for an internship that doesn’t compensate you fairly.

Fortunately, paid internships are on the rise, and they’re a great way to learn and grow as a professional while also being able to pay your bills.

Experience the benefits of what an internship can do for your career. Start your internship search today!

What’s holding you back from interning?


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