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Internships: The New First Job

Two men sitting at a table looking at a laptop.

​Bestselling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. Contact him at the e-mail address at the end of this column. 

Did you know? Ninety percent of people hired directly after college were students who worked as interns. Internships give employers time to evaluate your potential while you develop professional skills and learn about workplace expectations and how your chosen profession functions and contributes to the organization.

This professional know-how makes you competitive and gives your career the fuel it needs to jump ahead. It's on-the-job learning at its best.

The Money Question 

While you obviously want to be paid for your work, if ever there is a time in your life when you can work for nothing and still come out ahead, it is with internships while you're in college. You'll gain valuable professional experience, credentials, connections, a stronger resume and real-world references. 

Your internship experience sets you apart as someone who has already entered the professional world, and that's worth tightening your belt for a few months. Many internships pay, but few pay well, and with the some of the glamor professions, like entertainment or fashion, you can expect to be paid less. So maybe put dreams of that new car on hold—for now. 

How to Work for (a Company Like) Google

If you want an internship with a big-name company like Google, with hopefully a full-time job to follow, you can prepare by getting progressive intern experience with other respected employers first. Internships lead to experience, which leads better internships with better companies. But remember: Google started on a kitchen table in 1997, so know that while everyone wants to work for a blue-chip company, there are plenty of valuable internship opportunities at companies you have never heard of, where you'll work on real-world projects, gaining legitimate professional experience to launch your career successfully.

Have a question for Martin about advancing or managing your career? From big issues to small, please feel free to e-mail your queries to We'll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know.

Packed with practical, honest, real-world guidance for successfully navigating common HR career challenges, Martin Yate's new book, The HR Career Guide: Great Answers to Tough Career Questions, is available at the SHRMStore. Order your copy today!


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