October 29, 2010
No more making copies: Internships now include longer stints, startups and stipends
Special to NWjobs
If your impression of an intern is a bored, clueless post-adolescent in an ill-fitting suit, clearly you’ve been watching too many reruns of “The Office.” Today’s interns are dynamic, adaptable, business-savvy people who are reinventing the very concept of internship.
Andrew Maguire, co-founder of Seattle-based intern-search service InternMatch.com, says the three-month summertime stint is still the standard, and fall is still a good time to apply. But as the popularity of internships increases, more organizations are offering longer stints, starting in any season.
Nathan Parcells, who co-founded InternMatch with Maguire, says one trend is a move toward internships that are project-specific rather than set on a three-month timetable. “Longer-term interns are seen as being more capable than ad hoc summer interns,” he says. “Many interns who are hired to do Web work are finding that three-month internships can stretch to six months or longer.”
How to stand out
Show a passion for your field. Microsoft recruited Kyle Wilkinson for an internship in 2006, partly because he conducted computer-science projects in his spare time. “If you show that you’re engaged in your field, you’ll have more meaningful interviews,” says Wilkinson, InternMatch’s chief technology officer.
Be well-rounded. Amazon.com spokeswoman Mary Osako says, “Amazon looks for interns who are technically very strong in their area of expertise, as well as strong in analytics and communication skills, problem solving, bias for action and flexibility.”
Be honest about what you want. Don’t tell interviewers what you think they want to hear, says former intern Kristin Hillmann. “I found I did better by answering honestly, like telling them that I would not be happy at just a desk job,” she says.
“The line between internships and jobs is really blurring today,” Maguire says. “It’s a great way to get hands-on experience in lots of different places. Many people today are doing several internships in a row, gaining different experiences at each position and leading up to a permanent job.”
Case in point: University of Washington grad Kristin Hillmann. This past January, she started as a 15-hour-per-week event intern at the Washington Technology Industry Association for a $150-per-month stipend.
In April, Hillmann jumped at another internship for the Providence O’Christmas Trees charity event. The internship was unpaid, but Hillmann was able to network with the event’s executive director, who became a mentor.
From those connections, Hillmann landed a full-time job in September as an event and membership coordinator for The Rainier Club.
“What I loved most about my internship experience was the opportunity to see what I liked and didn’t like in the workplace,” Hillmann says.
Another trend Maguire has noticed is a renewed interest in internships for startup companies. “Startups are particularly fascinating places to work, and they’re not as competitive,” he says. “As an intern, you can get your hands in a lot of different places and interact closely with the owners.”
Paid internships are the norm, Maguire says: “If you pay your interns, you tend to get better results and it becomes a better recruiting tool.”
“Amazon provides competitive compensation and full relocation assistance for those interns moving from out of state,” says Mary Osako, a spokeswoman for the online retailer. “Amazon interns receive the same benefits and perks as full-time employees, [including] bringing dogs to work, employee discounts and a series of networking and social events.”
Michaela Götz is taking a break from earning her Ph.D. at Cornell University to do a 12-week Microsoft Research internship. “Microsoft helped cover my moving and housing expenses,” she says. Other Microsoft perks include a bus pass, restaurant and retailer discounts and social events -- plus compensation, which Götz describes as “competitive within the industry.”
The best part, however, “is to work with these smart people here on very interesting topics,” she says. “That certainly is challenging to me.”
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