Like many college students Victoria Baptiste interned last summer; unlike many students she held two internships, alternating between a research internship at the NYU Law School’s Center of Human Rights and an internship at a computer software firm GCS Computers. And these were not first internships for the Princeton University junior. The previous summer, she interned at UNTC in the United Nations. It’s been one internship after another, as she explores both what to do with her life and gain experience in the job world.
Internships and networking connections are becoming vital to compete in the job market. As a result of the increased competition, a “Catch-22” of sorts has emerged. Employers are looking for hires with past job experience; however it’s almost impossible to gain skills without first attaining the unattainable job. Instead of training a potential employee, companies are now looking to hire others who have already had practice in the workforce. Students are turning to internships as a way to learn a skill set, making an internship-usually serveral-a necessity for many students.
A recent study by MonsterTrak found that about 90 percent of companies new employees have had past job experience, especially through internships. This study also states that 50 percent of organizations eventually hire their interns.
“When an employer hires a new employee, it’s a major investment,” says Forbes writer Jacquelyn Smith and author of the article “When An Employer Requires Experience and You Have None.” “They want to know that the person they are hiring can hold a steady gig, and do a good job. The only way they can know this is from what they see on paper. If they see the candidate has prior experience in a professional setting, they’ll feel more comfortable investing in that individual.”
Smith states that while the Catch-22 has been experienced in the past regarding the job market, it has become more prominent during the current recession. These companies looking for new employers cannot afford to take risks in hiring and training new employers.
Some students seeking out internships are also beginning to experience this “Catch-22” that they cannot get an internship without prior internship experience. This furthers the difficulty gaining a job in the actual workforce after graduation.
“Because so many recent graduates are having trouble finding employment right out of school, some are taking on internship roles, thus potentially taking sports away form students who are still in school,” says Smith. “Then, when those students graduate, they have little or no experience, and the cycle continues.”
While internships are now considered mandatory in the job market, networking is also becoming essential to gain internship and job positions. James Scarmozzino, a junior at New York University studying marketing and film interns at James Startz Production and previous worked at Fox News Channel on production of their morning show. He gained both positions by knowing people in the field or having familiar and friendly connections in these job markets. “Ninety-nine percent of people don’t use the back doorway, which is friendly connection and bypassing resumes. If you know the managing director at J.P. Morgan, you’ll get in the door even if you don’t have experience.”
Like Scarmozzino, Baptiste credits her internship with not only providing experience but giving her an opportunity to sample possible career paths. She also feels that internships aid in networking possibilities.
“Internships are ridiculously helpful for two main reason,” Baptiste says. “It gives you the ability to have hands on experience and pick and choose which career path is right for you, and it is especially helpful in the business world. It allows for early networking with employers.”