The Power of an Internship
An interesting infographic was recently sent to my inbox. Created by WhoIsHostingThis, the “Do Interns Secretly Run the World’s Largest Tech Companies?” infographic details how, unlike in past times, leading tech companies recognize interns as the future of their companies.
The infographic begins supporting this claim by offering 16 examples of people who started out as interns and ultimately became CEOs. A few interesting examples include:
Steve Jobs: The infographic explains that Jobs landed his first “gig” at age 12 on the Hewlett-Packard line—assembling frequency counters— after he called President Bill Hewlett himself.
Ursula Burns: At age 22, Burns worked for Xerox as a mechanical engineering summer intern. Today, not only is she the company’s CEO, but the first black woman to lead a Fortune 500 company.
Andrea Jung: Jung worked as a summer intern for Bloomingdales, and now is the CEO of Avon Products, a multi-billion dollar business.
Steven Spielberg: Who hasn’t watched one of this man’s films? At age 17, the infographic explains how Spielberg landed an internship with Universal Studios’ purchasing department. After convincing one of the studio’s executives to watch one of his early films, they signed Spielberg to a 7-year contract.
Anderson Cooper: The popular journalist and TV personality interned for the CIA during his sophomore and junior summers at Yale.
Oprah Winfrey: Winfrey was an intern at a Nashville CBS affiliate…and the rest is “herstory.”
The infographic also offers some ‘average American’ statistics when it comes to how people benefit from completing an internship. It references a National Association of Colleges and Employers’ (NACE) study, which revealed that 63 percent of paid interns received at least one job offer in 2012 compared to 36 percent of graduates who didn’t have any experience. The NACE study also found that 75 percent of employees who were hired out of internships were retained after one year compared to 60 percent for those who didn’t.
And employers “favoring” students with internship experience is no recent trend either. According to this 2012 USA News & World Report article, “Degrees Are Great, but Internships Make a Difference,” 74 percent of Longwood University’s 2008 graduating class received jobs within six months of graduation, this was despite, the article states, “the fact that students were thrust into one of the worst job markets on record.”
The Virginia University requires an internship for all graduates. The article’s author also writes, “University officials and employers almost universally maintain that partaking in an internship—or several, which sets a student apart from his or her peers even more—before graduation is integral to finding meaningful employment in today’s seemingly impenetrable job market.”
I couldn’t agree with this idea more; there is absolute power behind completing an internship.
I graduated from a college preparatory high school, which required all seniors to complete an internship to graduate. At 17, I received my first internship experience as I worked a couple hours each week for an interior designer (my career aspirations at the time!).
Then, throughout college, I completed seven consecutive internships before being offered my first full-time position post-graduation. Although I started small interning (for free) at local magazines and women’s organizations, these experiences built up my resume, opening the door for many other—more predominate and paid—opportunities. And as I interviewed for each internship, the hiring managers universally were impressed with one thing: The fact that along with my school workload, I had also gained real-world experience by working in positions relevant to my major.
I honestly don’t believe I would have a full-time job or the opportunities I have today had I not gained hands-on experience via internships.
When I received the infographic below and looked at all the celebrity examples of interns to CEOs, I became inspired. I wholeheartedly believe that internships offer invaluable experiences from the people you meet, the different scenarios you’re able to work in and the skills that you gain. And to see real-life examples of people, especially prominent individuals, who started as interns and are now successful businessmen and women is motivational. Not to mention that there are countless other examples of success stories, even if they have not attained celebrity status like those listed in the infographic.
So, just to drive this point home to any current students, any job seeker or any employee looking to change fields: Don’t overlook the power behind internships. Completing internships will offer practical, hands-on experience that will give you the skills a classroom and exams simple cannot. And if you’re a job seeker or currently employed but hoping to transition to a new field, starting at an internship is also a great way to get your foot in the door and gain some experience in a field/role where you may lack the credentials.