Looking at the value of being a summer intern
LIKE MANY STUDENTS, I’m sick of constantly checking my email and nervously waiting to see if I’ll get a reply from an employer for an interview. I’ve applied to countless jobs, made several cover letters, and created loads of online profiles to apply to these positions. It’s heartbreaking to feel as if you’re getting nowhere when you’re giving your all. Like my peers, I’ve had to deal with the overwhelming task of attempting to find a summer job in a field related to my studies on top of managing a full-time course load.It’s these obstacles students face in the current job market, among others, that have made interning seem like a more effective way to secure full-time employment upon graduation.
Lauren Friese, founder of TalentEgg, a Canadian website that helps recent grads and current students transition into the workforce by posting advice, job opportunities, and other career-oriented resources, recently spoke with the Fulcrum about internships.
“[Internships] should appeal to students because [they’re] a great way to build your resume, which in turn will help you find meaningful employment,” she says. “A lot of employers expect that you’ll have relevant work experience for an entry-level position, but it’s also a great … and unique opportunity to try something for a four-month period and see if you like doing and if you don’t.”
Friese hatched TalentEgg after she found it difficult for students to navigate the current workforce through her own experiences. She says it’s important for students to approach internships differently from traditional job hunting. Students should understand what they bring to the job market and what they’ll get out of the experience.
Aside from listing TalentEgg and Career Edge Organization, another company that advertizes internship opportunities to Canadian students, as possible places where students can find internships, Friese believes it’s up to the students to be proactive and contact companies to find their dream internship.
“A lot of the time it’s up to you to really chase down internships. There’s going to be the ones that are posted and the ones with companies that don’t know that they need you yet.”
Former Ottawa resident Melanie Gayeon Yu is one of those students who has been proactive in landing internships. Having worked at Dolce & Gabanna, Yves Saint Laurent, and Ralph Lauren as an intern, Yu—a senior in Parsons New School of Design in New York City—is used interning as a way to figure out what she wanted to do.
“I knew I wanted to work in the fashion industry but I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do, so I tried to intern for different companies and try all different departments [and] positions to really find out what I like and dislike,” says Yu in an email interview with the Fulcrum. “I figured I would use the internship opportunities as a chance to really figure out my future career path.”
Yu lists the hands-on experience, resume building, learning new skills, and networking as benefits from working as an intern.
“During my internships I’ve learned so [many] things that you don’t learn from a textbook. [Interning] is seriously the most hands-on experience and a preview of the working environment. During all of my internships I’ve got to really participate, learn, and observe what goes around a fashion companies. I’ve [gotten] to create and assist in fashion shows, market week, attend meetings, photo shoots, and many other exciting events [and] activities,” says Yu.
Ottawa Fashion Week intern Becca Breslin echoes Friese and Yu’s position on interning. The fourth-year communications major at the U of O explains internships are an important way for inexperienced students to get their foot in the door.
“I would most definitely recommend interning to other students,” says Breslin in an email. “There is so much to gain when you put yourself out there and go the extra mile to stand out amongst your peers and get experience that is priceless.”
While internships seem to be a golden opportunity for students with little experience, there have been debates over whether internships are even ethical. It’s been argued this type of work go against Canadian labour laws by having students work for free. Friese believes interning has merit and should remain a viable option for students.
“The whole idea for me of unpaid internships is creating an opportunity for students that wouldn’t otherwise be available,” explains Friese. “Take even some of the biggest media companies in the world, like the Globe and Mail or the CBC—they have tons of unpaid internships. Now if those internships were paid, would they be offering them to students?”
Friese goes on to explain companies who fill jobs with interns in positions they would’ve paid someone to do is unethical. Yet she remains adamant about the value in internships.
“When people so blindly criticize the idea of an unpaid internship, why aren’t people criticizing the idea of going to grad school or even to university where we pay to get experience that isn’t even close to relevant to our career?” she asks.
To students who can’t afford to take four months off to pursue an internship, Friese mentions quite a few paid internships exist and it’s up to students to find them.
“You’d be so shocked by students who just sit back and try to let it happen to them and the ones that sort of go an extra step really stand out,” says Friese. “My message to students, especially graduating students, is take control of the whole experience and make it happen for you,” says Friese.