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Friedman’s Internship Article Hits Key Themes on Jobipedia

June 12, 2013

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman recently published an article titled, "The Internship: Not the Movie," which touched on four themes we hear regularly on jobipedia.org. Though his argument that companies are increasingly disinterested in applicants’ credentials is a bit idealistic given the time and energy companies continue to spend on their on-campus recruiting efforts each year, the concerns that he and the start-up HireArt are hearing from entry-level jobseekers are widespread and highly topical. The following are three themes he raised that we hear on jobipedia.org all the time.

Are the long-term unemployed considered "unhirable"? As one recruiter noted in responding to this question recently (here), "The job market over the past 5 years has definitely been different than what we experienced the 10 years prior. While the market is picking up, there are many more ‘qualified’ candidates competing for the same role than a decade ago, so it is typically taking longer for a candidate to be hired for some roles." That doesn’t necessarily mean that employers are simply discounting workers because they’ve been looking for a while, as Friedman suggests, but it is definitely a market that allows employers to be more selective in their hiring. Therefore, prospective employees need to really understand and be able to communicate their value to an individual employer.

What are some key mistakes people make in looking for internships? One that Friedman points out is when applicants "try to be everything..." on their resume and then look to the employer to figure out how best to make use of their disparate skill set. As some of our hiring experts suggested recently, a good way to avoid this ambiguity may be to include either a summary profile or objective statement at the top of a resume, "to show you are focused on the company and the position" (see the discussion). As an applicant, you need to make your own sales pitch for why you will add value; don’t depend on someone who just met you to make your case for you. That said, as a recruiter from American Express wrote recently (here), as an entry-level applicant "It is quite reasonable for you to have some question marks around your long-term plan, but you should have some clarity around the short-term and you should be prepared to speak to this. How does the role fit in to these plans and what can you bring to the table?"

What makes a great internship? A recruiter from Praxair recently summed it up like this (here), "Companies use internship programs to "test" the student as a potential hire (to convert to a full time hire upon graduation). Don't be fooled into thinking internships are not important work experiences; sometimes your behavior and ability to learn is what’s most critical during this experience..." Other top tips we regularly hear from our contributing hiring experts are: "humble yourself - even if the task is menial, do it as well as you can;" "soak up the culture of the organization, understand their business model, and actively look for ways to contribute;" and "solicit feedback regularly during the internship, don’t just wait for a review period." Finally, network, network, network. Our hiring experts point out that at many of their companies, interns often have better access to senior management than actual entry-level employees, because firms work hard to create these opportunities. At one Fortune 300 company, the CEO even volunteered to critique the resumes of their summer interns. The smart ones took advantage of the opportunity, but unfortunately many didn't. As an intern, use everything that is available to you.

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