An article on CNN titled “Is an internship the new entry-level job?” came out two days ago focusing on some recent grads who have taken several internships since graduating. I would have to agree with the headline as I am in the same shoes as many of the individuals interviewed, currently struggling to find that elusive, or illusive, entry-level position.
It had me thinking, with my struggles on the job front, one could argue that internships after graduation could hinder your job search. It’s the dilemma I’ve been faced with, but not yet defeated by, recently.
What I’ve experienced recently is multiple companies I interview with are held back by “my lack of experience,” which I often suspect is attributed to my job titles. Even though my previous year-long internship was full-time, it’s looked at as less than that. Since graduation in 2009, I’ve only not worked three full weeks; the time since I completed my most recent internship on November 18, 2010. One of my internships was at a public relations agency and the other was in-house corporate communications at a large consumer company. Prior to that, I interned part-time at a TechCrunch50 startup and social media agency. How is that not relevant work experience when I’m interviewing for PR- and social media-focused positions? When they ask for one to two years experience in PR, I have a year full-time and a year and a half part-time which doesn’t seem to cut it. What was once considered entry-level, a position asking for a basic foundation and perhaps 1-4 internships in your functional area, is not enough.
Is it just that companies are excessively cautious to take the plunge and be my first non-internship employer after graduation, even though I’m technically qualified? It’s what every interview boils down to: the interviewer in some way asking if I’ve ever had a “real” non-internship job after graduation. The answer is clearly no if you have to ask.
This might also affect the labor chain the other direction, too. Finding my first internship was tough, and there was absolutely no chance I’d land a paying internship in marketing or public relations without taking at least two unpaid internships prior. This was not the case for my good friend, an electrical engineering major, who landed his first summer internship with a hefty $22/hour starting wage. The increased competition for internship-seeking undergrad students from recent graduates might up the hiring criteria, especially for those paid placements. On the other hand, with the threat of a double-dip recession, we could also see a spike in the number of internship openings; a simple game of supply and demand.
Either way, it looks like I should reconsider the option of taking another post-graduation internship because there’s no longer a true “entry-level” job.