Internship can be solid career moveIn an ideal world, you’ll land a stable job at a prestigious company even before you collect your college degree. You’ll graduate with pride, knowing that success and security are guaranteed in the months to come.
Then again, maybe they’re not.
What happens if the job you take doesn’t meet your expectations, or you fail to snag an offer by the time graduation rolls around?
In either case, taking an internship may be a good career option.
One 27-year-old Korean recently accepted an internship at an international bank operating in Seoul after he lost his job in the dot.com bust in the United States.
He had graduated with a degree in economics from a U.S. college and had held a couple of tech-related jobs before returning to Korea.
Now, the bank internship is giving him first-hand experience in the financial sector. At the end of his internship, he’ll decide whether he wants to make the commitment that banking takes to enter the field.
“If I want to work in finance, I’ll have to go back to school,” he says. “I’ll get a higher position when I graduate from business school, but I’ll also be a good $60,000 in debt. I’ll be forced to find a lucrative job just to pay back my student loans.”
The internship is teaching him about an unfamiliar industry, and he’s learning whether his temperament matches the job.
“This is a way for me to see if I really like the company and the field,” he says. “I can find out if I’m a good fit,” he says.
For the bank, contracting an intern is less of a gamble than hiring a full-time employee. Interns cost less; they often work for free. And, internship programs allow companies to judge prospective candidates.
Another 23-year-old graduate recently quit her first job as an event planner to accept an internship at a Seoul newspaper. Throughout college, she thought she wanted to be a convention organizer. But when she started working, she realized that her expectations and the actual job were quite different.
While attending college, she had worked as an intern at the newspaper. She recently returned for a second internship, sacrificing two-thirds of her salary for a potential career in reporting.
She knows that if she had stayed at her first job she would have had opportunities for promotions and salary increases. “But I asked myself whether I wanted to be an event organizer for the rest of my life, and the answer was ‘No.’”
College graduates who choose an internship over a job are in a distinct minority, says Lee Jeong-gu, a career counselor at Kyung Hee University in Seoul.
Most students want to take the next step in their lives ― working ― even if it means getting a less-than-satisfactory job. In addition, many internships are only open to college students.
“After graduating, most students want to get settled as soon as possible,” Mr. Lee says. “So even if a job doesn’t meet their expectations, they’ll take it. Men, in particular, are thinking about the future. They have to get married.”
A career counselor at Sogang University in Seoul says that under ideal circumstances, people take jobs over internships.
But situations often aren’t ideal.
That’s where internships come in. A well-chosen internship can be the first step in managing your career.
“Employers who hire interns end up offering a ‘real’ job to 60 percent of them,” writes Fortune.com columnist Annie Fisher. “Even if no full-time position comes through after your six months are up, you’ll at least have gained some valuable work experience.”
Going from graduation to an internship has another benefit, Fisher notes.
If you don’t take an internship, you’ll likely spend the next six months mailing our resumes and looking for a job.
“There’s no doubt which course of action looks better on your resume,” notes Ms. Fisher.
by Joe Yong-hee