My college internship was at an ad agency – and I was lucky enough not to search countless internship job postings to find it. I thought I wanted to be some Fortune 100 marketer, or at least that’s what popped in my head first when my advisor asked what I would like to do to get my 3 credits of practical application of a communications degree. I just wanted to get paid at my internship. I didn’t really care what I did.
I was partially inspired. I was working on an advertising campaign for a therapeutic horse riding non-profit in a class. I had dreams of creating the billboards I used to see along the roads when we would road trip in my childhood. I know, I’m aging myself with the billboard thing, but stick with me here.
It was the first time in my life that knowing someone paid off. My advisor was well connected in the community and made one call. The next day, I was booking an interview with the top agency in town and a few weeks after that, I started work. I mostly wrote columns and newspaper ads for the local GE plant. I loved it because work was nothing like school. No hypotheticals. No historical analysis. No theories of principals of bullshit. I was doing the work, then finding it in the paper every week.
Picking Purpose Over Degrees For Internships
Networks are the big perk of going to college (or so they say). It’s how I got my job and how many students access internships. But shouldn’t the fact that I actually wanted to do the work be the bigger motivation? Without the access, how would I ever get the gig that started my marketing career?
The bigger question is this: why doesn’t interest guide who gets internships? If you really want to do the work and build a career, isn’t that better than having a bunch of debt and feeling forced into a career you don’t love? Why would we require a degree and limit the pipeline when so many people could do the job?
I’d love to see internship programs focused on getting people who want to do the work in the door, not solely college graduates. We can argue all day about the value of a college degree, but no matter the cost it will never make anyone actually care. I want people who care. So if you’ve ever said you want to stand out to the next generation? Try this.
Internship Job Postings Are Key
Instead of a degree requirement, try telling potential intern candidates the information they really want to know. Remember, they likely haven’t done this job. Start by answering questions interns have all the time. Tell them what other people in this role have done next in their career. Projects they’ll complete. Give examples. Make the job something they can imagine doing.
Most importantly, tell them why it matters.
It’s easier than you think. Write this: As our intern, you will help us…
Now fill in the blank. What program will they work on? How does it help your company? What’s the next step if they do well? Tell them. This could be the door that opens them up to a whole new life they never imagined.
The same way investing in your team is important, you should be investing in your future, too. As we provide interns with the education they need to pursue their career dreams instead of making up requirements, we can create a generation of employees who know what they want to do *and* why. It’ll benefit you both in the long run.
Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.
Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.
Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.