When you’re looking for an internship, the last thing you want is a job that will have you making copies and fetching coffee.

That’s the last thing Mark Babbitt wants, too. Determined to make the internship experience better, both for students and for the organizations that hire them, he founded YouTern, which connects talented students with “dynamic startups, change-oriented non-profits, and passionate entrepreneurs.”

And when it comes to finding the perfect internship, getting your foot in the door, and knowing what internship managers want—he’s the expert. So we sat down with him this week and asked him everything you’ve ever wanted to know.

Everyone knows it's important to have internship experience on your resume—but what would you say is the biggest benefit?

Mark
Mark

Internships provide many benefits: mentorship, a career focus (sometimes you learn what you don’t want to do), networking, developing soft skills, and more.

But perhaps the single biggest benefit of internships is gaining the hands-on experience that’s absolutely necessary to be considered employable by recruiters and hiring managers. A college degree isn’t enough anymore. GPA is rarely even discussed. Employers want to know if you can step in and do the job—right now.

YouTern connects students with startups and non-profits, not large programs. What's the benefit of working in this type of environment, vs. a larger corporate setting?

We focus on high-quality, mentor-based internships, and we’ve found that this type of internship occurs most often in small-team environments like startups, small businesses, and non-profits. But, we do also work with large companies with stellar internship and learning programs, like Hasbro, Marvel, and Northwestern Mutual.

What are the most important features students should look for in an internship?

First and foremost, look for an environment that’s supportive of the intern experience: learning, networking, mentorship, and contribution. This means avoiding those old-school “go-fer” internships where you’re fetching coffee and making copies all day. Those “minion” internships—which are often exploitive and unpaid—are disappearing, slowly but surely. But not fast enough.

On that note—what do you think? Should students take unpaid internships?

At YouTern, we strongly advocate for paid internships—we often say that if the organization is directly profiting from the efforts of the intern, there is no excuse for not paying him or her. That said, we also understand that pay alone does not necessarily create a beneficial internship.

Instead, we focus on the learning experience, mentorship offered, the opportunities to network within the internship, and—most importantly—whether it enables the intern to become more employable.

The reality is that some unpaid internships, although they aren’t for everyone, are far better intern experiences than some old school, paid internships that ultimately prove to be of little real value.

What do your clients and their hiring managers look for in an intern?

This is very situational, of course—an engineering firm may require a studious, analytical intern, whereas a boutique public relations firm may want an out-of-the-box creative type with a certain edge.

In all cases, however, employers are looking for intern candidates with solid soft skills: work ethic, problem-solving abilities, coachability, leadership, and time management skills, just to name a few. Internship-seekers should focus on building these skills and highlighting them during interviews.

How else can applicants can stand out in a huge pool of interns?

A cleanly formatted, error-free resume that quantifies your value is incredibly important toward standing out. And again, soft skills should be emphasized on your resume and during the interview. Also important is a strong social media presence that shows character and displays undeniable passion for the industry, company, and that specific position. And, as old school as it sounds, nothing is more impressive than a little hustle and perseverance. Those who show hustle, win!

Have you seen interns turn their internships into a job? What's the best way to set yourself up toward getting hired?

In a recent NACE survey, it was reported that nearly 70% of interns were offered full-time employment as a direct result of an internship. That percentage seems a bit inflated—however, we do see internships turn into a job quite often, either with the company the intern has worked for directly or through networking contacts and mentor relationships developed during the internship.

And it is true that 90% of all direct-from-college hires go to those with internship experience on their resumes. Internships are clearly the way to go to ensure you’ll have a job offer at graduation.

Find your dream internship at YouTern.com, or check out YouTern’s blog, The Savvy Intern, for job search tips and advice once you’re on the job. 

For more in this series, check out: Internship Week

Photo courtesy of Tulane Public Relations.