OK, I’ll say it again. INTERNSHIP.

Are you looking for an entry level job as a recent college grad or as a professional in the midst of a career change? You may want to consider having the word INTERNSHIP on your resume. Employers recruiting for entry level jobs are looking for job candidates who already have relevant job experience, yes, even for those “entry level” jobs. Back in the day, entry level jobs meant just that. Not so much nowadays with fierce competition surrounding every known job opening. Sounds like a chicken and egg story, yes, but that’s the reality of jobseekers today.

So, how do you first get that relevant work experience in order to land that entry level job?  Internships can be a key to building your resume with tangible professional experience, especially for that entry level job. Internships should be strategic, meaning they will afford the intern with experience and contacts that are relevant to their desired field.  Students in particular can combine experiential internships with their academics to be primed to shoot out the gate upon graduation. 

According to Chronicle.com, The Chronicle of Higher Education, academic internships are “three way partnerships” among the (I) university, (II) employer and (iii) student and should benefit all three partners equally. For the student, internships can provide hands-on learning, skills and professional experience, confidence, networking contacts, academic credit, and salaries and benefits (in some cases,). For the employer internships serve up valuable and well-educated workers.  Last but not least, the university builds a long-term connection with the business community through internships.

One Boston strategy and communications firm, Cone has an impressive academic internship program in place. I had the opportunity to speak about Cone’s program with Alan Weatherbee, Director of Human Resources. With over 10 years experience in the employee recruitment field, Alan sees more and more specialization in this marketplace and says, “The sooner a student can figure out what they want to do post-graduation, the better.” Mr. Weatherbee envisions Cone’s internship program as an opportunity for the intern to experience the public relations field and decide if they would like to pursue that career. Cone benefits as well with a talented and experienced intern pool from which Cone can look to as potential future employees once they graduate. Alan says that currently 10% of their staff are former interns and he expects this number to increase as they enhance their internship program even more.

Cone invests in their interns by providing them with real work experience and an equally important educational component comprised of topic workshops, assigned mentors and a continual feedback loop. Cone has dedicated an internship Program Manager, Jennifer Zak, who job is “refine and deliver the absolute best educational internship program in the PR industry.” Alan says that their program is unique because their “interns are actually embedded on specific account teams and end up being challenged within real world situations, while at the same time being given clear advice, direction and guidance.” Cone’s interns get the experience they need to produce valuable and more importantly employable skill sets. As Alan Weatherbee says, “Exposure and integration are key.”

Cone believes that this investment in their interns will pay off for them. “The assumption is that our interns will want to work for us full-time when they are in the job market. We need to deliver the experience and the education to gain that traction in recruitment,” Alan says, “It’s a two-way street.” Those are nice words from an employer.