Overwhelmed By the Job Market? Think Outside the Box with Internships!

Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD) in Kenya & Uganda

Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD) Visit to Kenya & Uganda

Today on GoAbroad, we bring you a guest post from Mireille Cronin Mather, the Executive Director of the Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD), where she discusses the variety of ways an internship can benefit your future career plans.

Are you a student, recent grad or aspiring professional who is finding it difficult to enter the current job market and economy? What have your experiences been like – and what tips would you add to making the most of and internship? Check out what Mireille has to share with GoAbroad and leave your own thoughts in the comments!

Why Now an Internship?

With the job market and the economy still not recovering and students faced with overwhelming college debt, many recent or upcoming grads may be thinking that an internship is not an option. On the contrary! In the present environment, an internship may be the smartest move you make.

Job seeking, especially in the social sectors, can be a Catch-22: Most recruiters want to see significant work experience – and that doesn’t mean the part-time job at the bookstore. But that work experience can only be gained through employment, right? Wrong. An internship is a terrific way to get practical experience that complements the 18-credit semesters, numerous volunteer projects, and multiple committee leadership roles that make high-achieving students sleep deprived and overscheduled for four years.

Here are some of the unique benefits an internship can offer–assets that can significantly boost your hirability:

Applied Real-World Skills

The job market has greatly narrowed, so that means specialized skill sets are becoming in higher demand than general administration and coordination. Let’s be honest: that campus campaign that got your entire dining hall to compost was certainly an important undertaking– but most employers want to see those skills applied outside of school. An internship offers real-world application that includes many factors (and stressors) that don’t necessarily exist in a campus environment . (After all, who was going to get fired if the composting campaign had failed?) And while many approach their volunteering efforts with as much professionalism as they’d bring to a job, the responsibilities and expectations of an employee just aren’t the same.

That’s one reason why our interns at FSD—both at our San Francisco headquarters and in the field—have the same responsibilities as hired employees, and are accountable for the same level of outputs. (We are proud to provide all successful interns with strong recommendations, which help them enormously to attain the job or graduate school placements they seek.)

Increased Efficiency and Management Tools

Speaking of outputs, internships are also a great way to learn how to increase efficiency, which is definitely a desirable trait in today’s more competitive market. Because of the higher level of responsibility required with our FSD internships, we provide training in practical skills that will really impress employers, such as project design and management and evaluating outcomes. (Our interns leave with solid accomplishments that burnish their resumes considerably.) Companies and organizations want productive employees so that they can hire fewer staff and save costs.

Demonstrated Interest and Dedicated Effort

Internships, especially in a foreign country and certainly in a developing one, demonstrate that you are interested in the world around you and can face challenges as they come. A prospective company wants to know you are energetic and care about what you do, and won’t be a slacker. Putting yourself out there in a completely new environment will demonstrate that interest and energy. It takes dedicated effort to complete an internship, and employers know and value that commitment—especially when you can point to specific projects you’ve completed and results you’ve attained.

In recent years, many more upcoming and recent graduates are seeking a rigorous internship like FSD’s that will give them an edge in the job market. Whether you go into the field of international development, a related field, or an entirely different pursuit an internship will enable you to prove you are someone who will make a meaningful, experienced contribution to an employer and hit the ground running.

Check out your campus career center or study abroad office for information on internships in your area of interest. Visit the FSD website to see what internships FSD offers—and take a look at past interns’ testimonials. When you see the stellar careers that internships such as ours can help catapult, you’ll agree this is time very well spent!

What other tips would you add to this list?

Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD) logoMireille Cronin Mather is Executive Director of the Foundation for Sustainable Development, and has hired a dozen interns after their internship with FSD.

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2 Responses to “Overwhelmed By the Job Market? Think Outside the Box with Internships!”

  1. Internships in China
    Sunday, 10 June 2012 at 8:08 #

    Some very good points of why an internship can give you an edge when applying for jobs – a great read.

  2. Monica
    Monday, 11 June 2012 at 11:22 #

    Really good advice, and makes me excited to start a fellowship I just got at Playa Viva’s resort in Mexico!! I got it through iOnPoverty, check out their website (www.ionpoverty.tv) for video interviews with leaders in the social justice space and see how you can get involved.