I don’t need more work experience, I had an internship in college!
— Famous Last Words of the Underemployed College Graduate
In my path talking with prospective Praxis applicants and with prospective Praxis business partners, I am often asked why the Praxis business partner experience is ten months and not just three, four, or six months, like many collegiate internships. Why go off and spend so long at a company, especially if you’ve already worked one or two internships during your time in college? Why take a Praxis participant if you have an internship feeder from a local college?
It turns out, if you want to escape the trap of underemployment, a college internship isn’t enough. If you want to add real value to your team, a slew of short-term interns won’t do you much good. You need more than a few short months here or a few weeks there. You need to get in the trenches, see how the sausage is made, and exhibit real employability.
Get In the Trenches
I’ve reviewed hundreds of resumes in my short time working with recent grads and I am amazed to find people who put two week stints at companies over the summer claiming that they have “experience.” I’m hesitant to put my own three month summer internship from 2012 on a resume, let alone something shorter than the traditional college winter break.
It’s not that a short internship is inherently bad, it’s that it rarely provides the opportunity to see the real dynamics behind an organization. The honeymoon period of any job tends to last a few months and it is only after this period that people really start to see where problems with the job lie, where there are opportunities for growth, and how the company operates. You barely have enough time to see how your own department works in a small organization after a couple of months — how can you expect to know how the entire org works? Many sales cycles last longer than a traditional internship — this means you have interns finishing up their programs without having seen a sale happen from start-to-finish.
You can’t. Employers know this. People who have had summer internships and who are honest with themselves know this. Recognize this fact and get in the trenches. Spend some time grinding away doing hard work, develop a work ethic and a sense of grit, and get a real experience. Ten months is just long enough for you to see a sales cycle in most organizations, work on a few projects, get to really know people, and have an opportunity to see different parts of the organization for more than a one-off day.
Build a Portfolio
One of the things we thought of when we created Praxis was that we wanted to give young people looking to build and accelerate their careers a real, valuable experience where they get to develop tangible skills, learn more about themselves, and actually develop projects and a portfolio they can show off in the future. We didn’t want them to have to fall back on a term paper or a group project from school when asked for a portfolio. We wanted them to really have an opportunity to be immersed in an environment that regularly created value for people (i.e., consumers), identify problems to be solved and opportunities to be seized, and actually have the time and resources to develop a real solution to these problems.
A few months at a company during your co-op for college or a summer internship in between semesters can be a great way to get exposed to a company for the first time, but it rarely provides the opportunity to really see every facet of the company, interact with consumers, and analyze and react to problems faced by the firm or the customers.
Dozens of young people (myself included!) expressed that it was only in the last few weeks of their short summer internships that they were able to really see where value could be created inside and outside of the organization. By the time that they had really begun to see where opportunities await, they have to pack up their bags and head back to school.
The ten month experience provides real opportunity for analysis and growth. Combine this with the resources of the Praxis education experience and the portfolio project, participants have an opportunity to really develop projects and solutions and contribute significantly to their business partners.
Exhibit Real Employability
Not only do short internships not provide much of an opportunity for the intern to see how the company works and to build real projects, they don’t really signal anything about employability.
I recently had lunch with a business partner of ours who runs several successful, profitable businesses and he told me about an Ivy League graduate he knows who he would never, ever hire. Why?
“The guy has only ever worked anywhere for three or four months. That’s just long enough for a company to hire somebody based on their resume and figure out that they’re lazy and not worth keeping around!”
A short internship doesn’t actually show that you are employable. If you’re a lazy worker or a bad employee, it usually takes a few weeks for a merciful employer to notice and think about cutting you. The first week or two can be chalked up to onboarding stress. After that, they might just think you’re a typical millennial, but might improve with more time. Finally, a month or two passes and they realize that you only landed an interview based on your resume. They’re ready to fire you — but your internship ends in a week or two anyway. It’s less stressful for them to let you leave on “good” terms than to actually fire you.
Most employers realize this — unless you have something tangible to show for your work experience, just having a few internships doesn’t actually tell them anything.
Ten months is another story. Praxis business partners aren’t charities and reserve the right to fire participants who perform poorly. If you can get through ten months, chances are you exhibit some sense of employability.
More Than an Internship
This all assumes that Praxis is just a ten month internship — it isn’t. If Praxis were simply a summer internship stretched over ten months, it would be leaps and bounds more valuable than your traditional shorter internships.
A Praxis placement is much more. It’s work experience (no fetching coffee and spending days filing paperwork here!), mentorship with Praxis coaches, and a personal development experience, all wrapped into one. While you are working with your business partner, you’re accelerating not only your career but also your personal development.
If what you’re looking for is setting yourself up for career success, you need more than a college internship. You need Praxis. Apply today, now launching classes every month.