Why year-round internships are a smart move

    It’s that time of year. Back-to-school ads are everywhere, stores are displaying fall fashions, and the interns are… just getting started!

    Wait, what? Oh, you thought summer was the only season for internships?

    If you haven’t noticed, colleges and universities are year-round operations these days. Students take courses throughout the summer—whether in person or online—and work experiences that used to be relegated to “summer internship season” have become a year-round operation as well.

    Savvy students have long known the big advantage of fall or spring internships: less competition from classmates. Desirable companies are often flooded with applications for summer internships, but in the fall the applicant pool shrinks considerably. Smart students know that the best chance to get that prestigious company’s name on your résumé is in the fall or spring.

    There are also some equally important advantages to companies hiring interns during the fall or spring semester. And with some of the emerging models that look more like “gigs” than traditional internships, it’s easier than ever for companies to see the top 5 benefits of year-round internships:

    1. The most motivated students are available.
      Students who seek opportunities to work with companies during the fall and spring semesters are exceptional. These young professionals are more likely to understand the value of real-world experience and these applicants usually show more initiative and grit. They realize that having more than one or two internships on a résumé increases the likelihood of landing not only a good job after graduation, but the right job. If you advertise an internship in the fall or spring, you’ll discover that a higher percentage of go-getters will apply.
    2. Year-end tasks are perfect for interns.
      Whether you need to scrub your customer relationship management system or evaluate the year’s social media ROI, an intern can be a lifesaver with fiscal and calendar year-end tasks. If your company sees an increase in sales or donations during the holidays, interns can help you manage the temporary surge in volume without having to employ additional full-time staff year-round.
    3. Students have access to housing and other critical supports.
      Unfortunately, some students can’t afford summer internships far from home because the cost of housing is prohibitive. During the school year they have access to learning support, the meal plan, and career counselors. By hiring an intern during the academic year, it’s very likely you’ll give a young person valuable experience who may not otherwise have the opportunity. Plus, this is a great way to support your diversity and inclusion initiatives as you find individuals who you might otherwise miss.
    4. Career services staff are on high alert for ambitious juniors.
      As students begin their junior year, the reality of their impending graduation stares them in the face. They go running to the career services center to find fall and spring internships to round out their résumés, but not every company offers internships year-round. Because of this “rude awakening,” career services staff often have a surplus of excellent candidates. Think of the career services office as pro bono headhunters for student talent.
    5. The academic schedule will help them stay focused.
      With no summer beach parties or spontaneous vacation invitations to tempt them, students and recent graduates are ready to buckle down and get serious. They will be more dedicated during the fall and spring than they might be during the long, sunny days of summer. They will also have advisors, professors, and peers around them who can help them stay on track and provide real-time support if questions arise.

    Learn more about building a year-round internship program with Internships 101.

    Gabrielle Valdes, a graduate student who interned with different companies during her collegiate career, has first-hand knowledge about combining classes with concurrent work experience.
    “When I was an undergrad, I pursued internships related to my field. Now I find I’m looking for opportunities to grow new skills,” she said. “As a graduate student, I’m doing freelance work as well as taking classes, and I have found it beneficial to do both simultaneously.”

    She also recommends that students pursue internships outside their major as well as those aligned with their degree program. Integrating the “hard skills” gained from coursework with the “soft skills” of an internship, even one outside your major, can facilitate a truly reflective learning experience and help students learn to transfer their knowledge across disciplines.

    The best way to find out whether your company could benefit from a fall or spring intern is to give it a try. See if your organization benefits from employing an intern, even if only a few hours per week with someone working remotely! Look for opportunities to evaluate the success of products and services, benchmark your company’s production against your competition, and assess your marketing efforts. You might be surprised at how a year-round internship can be a smart move for your bottom line.

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    Lynn Carroll is a connector, storyteller, and career coach. She helps clients “career authentically” by focusing on what’s most important to them and the unique gifts they have to offer. She blogs regularly at www.lynncareercoach.com. Connect with her on Twitter @LynnCareerCoach and find her on Facebook and LinkedIn.