By Susan Adams, Forbes Staff
If you are a college graduate and you are working at a paid internship, a new study shows, 60% of the time, that internship will turn into a job offer. For those who were working in unpaid internships, however, the news is much less encouraging. Thirty-seven percent of unpaid interns got job offers, according to the data. That’s just 1% better than graduates with no internship experience, 36% of whom got job offers.
The data come from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), which collected survey results from 15,715 seniors at the bachelor’s degree level from mid-January through the end of April of this year. NACE, a Bethlehem, Pa. non-profit that links college placement offices with large corporate employers, announced the results of its survey today. It found that 60% of respondents in paid internships received at least one job offer.
According to NACE executive director Marilyn Mackes, the main reason paid interns tend to get better offers is that they spend more time getting hands-on experience, as opposed to handling clerical tasks. According to the survey, paid interns spend 42% of their time doing jobs like analysis and project management, and just 25% of their time on clerical work, while unpaid interns spend just 30% of their time on professional tasks.
I’d like to sound one note of skepticism about the NACE results: While it doesn’t surprise me that paid interns are more likely to land jobs, I do think unpaid interns have a good shot at using their experience and contacts to land a job. I’ve seen it happen here at Forbes many times. We’ve hired interns and they’ve gone other places and gotten hired. Also, our unpaid interns perform substantive labors, writing carefully researched articles for Forbes.com and even sometimes for the magazine. They also perform magazine fact-checking, a vital function.
We’ve run stories in the past about how to turn your internship into a job. Here are a few tips:
Choose an internship that requires substantial work. Before you accept an internship slot, talk to those who have done the job before and ask about their experiences.
Act professionally at all times. Stick to the company’s dress code and office hours. Treat everyone you meet with respect and leave your personal life at home.
Network. Take advantage of the chance to meet senior leaders. At the same time, make friends with your fellow interns. They can all be valuable job contacts.
Ask questions. Don’t be shy about asking for clarifications on assignments, and don’t pretend to know something you don’t. As an intern, you’re expected to be a sponge for information.
Set goals. Meet with your supervisor and lay out projects you’d like to tackle and skills you’d like to master by the end of your internship.
Volunteer. When you see a project in need of a worker, raise your hand. Don’t overextend yourself, but do take on as much as you can handle.
Follow up. Stay in touch after the internship concludes. Do write a thank-you note after you’ve finished work, and send casual emails every couple of months to maintain your contacts.