“Just get your foot in the door,” goes an old adage that today’s college students take so seriously, they’re willing to work unpaid for months.
Internships “may be the hottest concept in higher education among students and their families,” observes Steve Langerud, director of professional opportunities at DePauw University. The hope is that getting a foot in the door will kick one open for a full-time position later.
Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee of such a reward, especially for those who toil unpaid, according to a recent survey form the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Sixty percent of 2012 college graduates who had a paid internship received at least one job offer, while 37 percent of unpaid interns received an offer and 36 percent of grads with no internship experience received job offers.
The survey also found a reason for the disparity: Paid interns spend much of their time engaged in “real work,” while unpaid interns spend more time on clerical tasks and less on the types of duties employers value.
Whether an internship is paid or not, adds Dr. Kevin Burns of the W.P Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, what’s important is for students to focus on “is the amount and quality of knowledge and applicable skills that an internship provides.”
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