What are we supposed to get out of internships?

People just tell me “real world experience”. Well, no shit Sherlocks, I know that. What exactly do they mean by real world experience? Like how to play office politics? Work the copy machines?


“Real World Experience” sounds good, but some internships are essentially grunt work where the actual skills you want to learn are never really exercised. But you are surrounded by people who are doing what you want to do, you have the ability to absorb all the specifics of the environment you’re working in, you are given plenty of opportunities to befriend and impress people who can help ou professionally, and you can put your association with these people (references)as well as the “responsibilities” you performed on a resume which will be read by people who will often know the same people you worked with.

My internship:

[li]Showed me what the job would be like on a day-to-day basis.[/li][li]Confirmed for me that yes, I could actually do this as a career and enjoy the work.[/li][li]Helped me get more comfortable about integrating into a new workplace (because my internship involved five different labs in three different hospitals).[/li][li]Got me a job.[/li][/ul]

I think that internships and co-op programs are a very good thing. Learning what you need to, in school, in order to do a certain job, is not al all the same as learning to actually do the job. I can’t speak for office-type internships, but for the lab, it was a wonderful chance to get a feel for the work I’d eventually be doing. A couple of students, when they saw what the job really involved, realized that it didn’t match their expectations, and left the program in search of something more suitable.

It’s a dose of reality, and a months-long job interview.

In addition to what Antigen said, a good internship will give you something to put on your resume and talk about during job interviews. That counts for more than you might think.

My niece laid a good one on her internship supervisor.

He made a big deal of telling her to lay low and let him do the talking when the big guys showed up from ‘up stairs.’
A day or so later a group of 4 or 5 showed up and before the supervisor could say a word two or three of them exclaimed,
“Alicia! what are you doing HERE?”
Needless to say her supervisor dropped his teeth while they carried on a conversation.

The had known her from the time she was a small child thru 2 yrs of HS when she accompanied her folks to business dinners and all the big shots thought she was the cutest thing around.

There is noting like good connections for an intern!

Remember your recent thread about what good is it to act professionally? (I can’t be bothered to search for it - how unprofessional of me.) That is what you should learn.

I’ve had four interns work for me this year; all four had the chance for a job; all four wanted a job; all four had the necessary skills for the job. We hired the one who displayed an interest in behaving as is appropriate for our office.

Connections are fine, letters of reference are fine, putting something on your resume is fine, but really, it’s all about learning the difference between school and the working world.

It all depends on the internship.

Our undergraduate interns get exposure to the type of work we do, our industry, and the corporate environment. They get a bit of project management and hands on experience doing a “real job.” I would say that typically they do in three months what a regular employee could do in one.

Our graduate interns get a lot more project management. They do in three months what would probably take a regular employee about two months. They also get exposure to the type of work we do and the industry, but I hope they already know how to conduct themselves in a corporate setting (the undergrads frequently don’t).

What does the company get out of it? We get some project done that, yes, we could have done faster. However, we don’t have the manpower to do them and we’re not going to bring in another full time employee just for those projects. We also learn how the individual interns work and, should we have an opening, we may feel they’re suited to that new position. Plus, we get some good PR at schools where we recruit if the interns come back with positive things to say about us.

Some companies use internships purely as a way of evaluating prospects for permanent employment, and full time offers are given almost exclusively to former interns. Others use it as a way of training managers to be supervisors: you start out with interns reporting to you before you get your first full time person. Still others seem to have no purpose at all and pay someone to sit at a desk and twiddle their thumbs all day. I have no idea what they get out of it.

How about, learning skills that are difficult or sensitive under supervision and with feedback? How about the opportunity to have people observe your work and be able to write a reference letter about your skills versus your potential?

Also, frankly, it’s a chance both for the intern to see if s/he actually enjoys the work, and for professionals in the field to provide the feedback, if necessary, that the intern is not cut out for the job or, in sensitive professions, would be a hazard to the public.

Is this yet another in a long line of “Why Is Diamonds02 Going To Be In For A Rude Awakening When He Joins The Adult Work Force” threads?

An intership is a chance for you to build your resume, maybe make a few contacts and make some money at a job that doesn’t involve a broom, cash register or a grill.

Most likely your actual tasks will range from being completely ignored to the most menial tasks in the office - in our case, copying disks, delivering packages and photocopying documents. But who the hell else should do it if not you? If it turns out you can do more, well we let them do that too. You also get to see what working in an office is like and how you are supposed to act.

If you’re lucky, you may have a full time job when you graduate.
Internships where you do nothing all day are due to a couple things - usually a lack of a structured program (like we had last year, it’s more structured now). It’s still an opportunity to get some lines on your resume, some contacts and maybe evaluate if you like the company or industry.

Don’t bother, Diamonds02. With your positive attitude, you’ll never need to do an internship; you’ll be a star at the cash register with or without.

I guess learning how to identify the “key players” and how to serve their needs are two of the things?

When I did my last internship my boss always griped about politics. She was always like “We could do this or that, and it would actually work, but we can’t because of politics” I had no idea what she really meant by that, and still don’t.

I would assume what she meant was that (for example) an idea was more likely to be taken seriously if it were offered by the CEO’s golfing buddy but wasn’t practical or sensible, than if it were offered by (say) an intern but was actually something that would save the company money. Someone who manages interns and gripes about politics has also probably been passed over for a promotion in favor of a peer who kissed ass better.

What are we supposed to get out of internships?

Actually, the correct answer is"cheap labor".

There are a lot of opinions in this thread suggesting that internship is a negative experience at best, or an experiment in sucking up to authority, or a waste of time.

It might be worth a look at what the job actually entails–my previous jobs where their interns mostly photocopied were jobs where the staff also did a lot of photocopying. A lot of jobs include repetitive tasks. Go to your local state college or community college career center and ask to see the vocational biographies, which detail what a person actually does at that job.

If the internship isn’t a good mirror of the job’s entry level requirements, it’s not a good intership and this information should be returned to the internship coordinator or placement person.

I suppose it also depends on the field. My students’ internships include answering rape crisis line phone calls, helping with home visits to assess readiness to regain child custody, creating materials that a treatment facility needs but can’t afford (such as Spanish translations of the program’s materials), assisting in court, building schools in Africa, developing activities for families, prison visits, tutoring autistic kids, etc. This is also what the professionals at these jobs do. On anonymous surveys, our students report that the internship is the most meaningful aspect of their training. This is at the undergraduate level.

I’d recommend career counseling as a way to identify your own preferences and the jobs that might meet them. Then seek training and internships in those areas based on what you actually want to do, and what the job actually entails.

Part of my internship (at a major national magazine) was to run the switchboard “cold”. No list of who held what job in the company and no instruction in how the phone system worked. I was supervised only by the editor-in-chief, whose primary role was to snap like a dry twig whenever I couldn’t answer a call within two rings.

I finally refused to do the job unless trained. Response: “Everyone else takes a turn at this, and none of them had to be trained.”

I crossed that magazine off my list of apply-to’s right there.

Perhaps someone could explain the concept of Internships to me?

From my reading of Dilbert (not the best of sources, I realise), it appears that Interns are basically expected to act as Coffee Lackeys, Errand Runners, and Phone Answerers etc- ie, performing work- yet not get paid for it?

Didn’t you guys fight a war over something like that a while back? :wink:

Admittedly we have a similar concept here, known as “Work Experience”, but it’s generally limited in time (usually a day, maybe a week at most), and is usually done while you’re still at High School… if you want to, of course. It’s not compulsory, for the most part, and there’s no expectation of getting a job out of it (again, for the most part).

I work for a state environmental agency. Internships are part of our recruitment and retention solution.

Our interns usually get both field and office experience, giving them an idea about which direction they’d rather go. How better to decide if you want to do field work in 90+ degree weather than to spend a few weeks sampling or overseeing well drilling?

They get an opportunity to read reports and meet represenatives from companies that our agency deals with and get a lot of dirt on what different people think of those companies. This helps them decide who to work for if they decide to go into the private sector. Would you want to go work for a company with a reputation for ineptitude?

If they want to work in the public sector, they get to network with employees at other local, state and federal government agencies, and NGOs.

There’s lots of ways to use a degree in environmental science, biology, chemistry, engineering, geology, hydrogeology, toxicology, etc. If you intern somewhere, you can find out a lot about the possible ways to use that degree. I’d wager the same goes for other fields as well.

Martini Enfield, internships can be either paid or unpaid. For an unpaid internship to be legal, it either needs to be at a non-profit (or possibly government, not sure on that) agency, which is essentially like being a volunteer, or it needs to be in a structured internship program for course credit. If the work is for a for-profit company and the internship is not for course credit, the pay needs to be at least minimum wage.


The “concept” of an internship is twofold. It is for motivated, talented students to get some real work experience as well as for companies to identify motivated, talented students who they might want to hire once they graduate. Most, if not all legetimate internships are paid. Usually paid well by college student standards.

Yes, quite often the intern does the most menial jobs in the office. But as I said, who the hell else should do it? At a bill rate of $300 an hour should I copy my own disks if I can get some kid to do it?

Internships are becoming more and more important for college students. Top jobs are competitive these days.

I’m interning at an insurance company. My job duties are essentially identical to those of a fresh graduate just starting in the department. The main difference is that the new-hires may be trained for a monthly or quarterly duty they will be performing, whereas the projects I work on are more one-time, because I’m only there for ten weeks.