THE BLOG
10/14/2013 04:49 pm ET | Updated Dec 14, 2013

Despite Recent Controversy, Internships Are Still a Valuable Teacher

In today's job market, a college degree is not a guarantee of a good job. Today's graduate needs every advantage and a good internship can give them that edge. It's a wonderful way for a student to experience the real world of business, a "practice run" before they begin their actual careers. For many, it's going to be a wake-up call when they discover that their job isn't going to be at all like what they've seen on TV sitcoms. Many of our young undergrads are shocked when confronted with the realities of the business world.

I once had a concerned sophomore come to my office with a pressing question, "Professor Kruczek, is it true that in the business world you are going to work 40 hours a week?"  I couldn't help but chuckle when I assured him that was not the case.  But before I could elaborate, he replied in obvious relief, "I'm so glad, because I can't imagine what you could do in a job for 40 hours!"  He was shocked when I informed him that there would be plenty to do for 40 hours, and that the reality was that he would more likely be working 50 or 60 hours per week when he began his career.  That student would have benefited from an internship.

I am a strong supporter of internships for undergraduate and MBA students. In almost every case it turns out to be a win for the student, and a win for the employer. This is in line with Lynn University's philosophy that emphasizes experiential learning and a real world education in addition to the traditional classroom. We require all of our undergraduate business students to take at least one internship course and depending on the business major, the student might be required to take more than one internship.

These internships are offered to our students in tandem with an educational course, which means that our students earn 3 academic credits plus the work experience that they gain. We know that these internships are an integral part of their business education. For some of our young undergrads, this might be the first time that they've actually worked in a real business other than a minimum-wage summer job .

The benefits to the student are fairly obvious: they gain valuable hands-on experience and get an inside look at what the real business world involves. In many cases, they come back from an internship excited about their future career path--they have found their dream industry and are energized to study even harder to get ready for graduation. Sometimes though, it's equally valuable when a student comes to the decision that this is not the career choice for them. The reality of their internship showed them that they need to change focus.

Whatever the outcome, we want our students to begin their internship experiences as early as the summer after their sophomore year. They need the first two years of classes to give them a good academic foundation and the additional discipline and maturity to appreciate their internships, but then the sooner they get an internship the better. It's good for the students, and the businesses like that approach, as it gives them the potential to have students intern within their organization for two summers.

Another benefit to the student is the fact that these internships are often times the pathway to full-time employment. I can't tell you the number of executives who told me that they landed their first full-time position as a result of an internship, myself included. The benefit to the employer is that they can "test drive" a possible future employee without a long-term commitment, and during that internship period they have an eager and enthusiastic worker with a fresh perspective.

Additionally, having completed an internship will really help a graduate stand out in the job hunting arena. Potential employers will be impressed with previous experience, and there will be the possibility for a great reference.

We value internships so much that the Lynn University College of Business has launched a Center for Career Preparation and Internships. We have a full-time director who reaches out to the business community to recruit companies that can offer excellent internship opportunities to our students. We vet the internships, match the students to appropriate placements, and then help prepare our students through one-on-one counseling to get them ready for a successful internship.

Ultimately, our goal as a university is to prepare our graduates for a successful career. When they leave school with diploma proudly in hand, we want them to have more than just a solid academic education. We want them to be prepared with opportunities and experiences beyond the classroom, and internships do just that.