Is Internship Experience Even More Important Than Your Degree?

4As many students head home for summer, they are faced with an age-old decision: what will they do with their free time?

Most will take on a summer job, while others may stay on campus to attend summer classes. Others, according to a recent study, will do the best possible thing for their careers: they will begin a summer internship.

In that study, researchers sent 9,400 fictitious resumes to more than 2,000 online job postings. The study found students who had internship experience were 14 percent more likely to land an interview than those without experience.

The study also suggests employers prefer candidates with internship experience over those with high GPAs. Although grades are important, experience is what gets your foot in the door at a company. In fact, your education is the last item on your resume employers look at. This is why you need to gain experience during your college years if you want to land a job after school!

Here are five reasons internship experience is even more important than your grades, and perhaps even more than your degree:

1. You Prove You are able to Function in a Real Work Environment.

College students who do internships are at a huge advantage. Not only are they learning how to apply their classroom knowledge into the workplace, but also they are learning how to function as a professional.

Internships give college students the opportunity to test-run their knowledge and pick up more skills and experience along the way. Internships also provide college students with the opportunity to gain valuable industry knowledge they wouldn’t have learned in the classroom.

For example, let’s say an employer is looking to hire for a business administration position and has two candidates to choose from. The first candidate has a high GPA and graduated with honors. The second candidate has slightly lower grades, but had two internships where she worked as a business administration intern. Who do you think the employer is going to choose?

The bottom line: internship experience is going to set you apart from your competition. Employers want to hire coachable candidates who will easily transition into the workplace. Internships are the best way to show employers you can function in the workplace and will speed up the learning curve. 

2. Grades Don’t Accurately Measure Work Ethic.

At a young age, people are trained to earn “A’s.” Although many people strive to be at the top of their classes, good grades don’t necessarily mean someone was the best student or the most challenged.

Research shows 43 percent of the grades given in college are “A’s.” In fact, GPAs at private colleges and universities have skyrocketed from 2.3 to 3.3 over the last few decades.

Since GPAs have climbed over the last several years, this has raised some red flags for employers. With more and more students graduating at the higher end of the GPA spectrum, it causes them to question whether or not students are being challenged enough. This is why many employers favor experience over classroom knowledge to gauge their preparedness for the workplace.

3. It Shows Employers Your Dedication to Your Career.

If an employer were to compare two candidates for an entry-level position — one with multiple internships and another with zero — they’re going to choose the one with more experience. Why? Because this internship experience shows employers the candidate was committed to breaking into their career.

Unfortunately, too many students are passive with their education. Not only are they overlooking internship experience, but also they don’t take advantage of opportunities to involved on campus or volunteer. Even if you can’t do an internship in college, there are endless opportunities to learn soft skills that make you a marketable candidate.

4. You Have More to Offer than Skills Alone.

A huge challenge employers face is hiring candidates with industry experience. In fact, one in four employers say a lack of experience is an underlying reason why they face a talent shortage during their hiring process.

Entry-level candidates who have internship experience have a more diverse background than those without experience. Sure, while your technical skills are important, soft skills such as collaboration and leadership are skills perfected in the workplace. Plus, with internship experience on your resume, you’re able to show employers you have a variety of experience to bring to the workplace rather than what you learned from a textbook.

5. Your Degree Can’t Tell Employers What You Can Do

No matter how perfect you look on paper, this doesn’t show employers what you can accomplish for their organization. Regardless of how many honors you graduated with, employers want to hear about your accomplishment stories and learn how you’d be a great fit for their organization.

No matter how much you tell employers how eager you are to learn, this enthusiasm can’t always land you the job. If an employer happens to find a candidate more qualified, they’ll most likely end up giving him or her the job. To overcome this issue, the best thing you can do is to complete an internship or two.

Once you do an internship, you’ll have a variety of stories to share with employer during interviews regarding your work ethic, successes and failures, and how well you work with others.

It’s Not Too Late (or early) to Gain Internship Experience.

Whether you’re graduating in December or you’re about to enter your freshman year of college, now is the perfect time to gain internship experience. Employers want to see you’ve made the effort to differentiate yourself from candidates and have a genuine interest in your career. When employers see multiple internships on your resume, they’ll definitely be eager to learn more about your experience.

If you’re struggling to find an internship, there are a number things you can do to secure one. Reach out to your university’s career center, meet with your advisor or a mentor, or even ask your parents if they’ve heard of any opportunities. Even if the only thing you can do is secure a job shadow this summer, that’s better than no experience at all. The key to being a desirable candidate when you graduate is having experience under your belt that will lead you to a job you’ll love.

Do you agree that internship experience trumps good grades, or a degree? Share your thoughts in the comments below!





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HeatherAbout the Author: Heather R. Huhman is a career expert and founder & president of Come Recommended, a career and workplace education and consulting firm specializing in young professionals. Follow her on Twitter at @heatherhuhman.



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