Survey Suggests Internships Impart More Workplace Wisdom Than Technical Skills

Apr 15, 2009

MENLO PARK, CA -- Although many students expect to gain new skills via summer internships, a new survey by The Creative Group shows that much of the value may stem from less tangible aspects of these programs. Thirty-one percent of marketing and advertising executives polled said experiencing different work environments is the greatest advantage of participating in internships, aside from pay. Nearly another quarter (24 percent) cited improving soft skills as the chief benefit.

The national study was developed by The Creative Group, a specialized staffing service providing creative, advertising, marketing and web professionals on a project and full-time basis, and conducted by an independent research firm. It is based on 250 telephone interviews -- 125 with advertising executives randomly selected from the nation’s 2,000 largest advertising agencies and 125 with senior marketing executives randomly selected from the nation’s 2,000 largest companies.

Advertising and marketing executives were asked, “Aside from pay, what do you think is the greatest benefit to students or graduates who participate in an internship program?

Their responses:

Experiencing different work environments 31%
Improving soft skills 24%
Acquiring technical skills or knowledge 22%
Making industry contacts 12%

Learning about office politics and other workplace issues

Don't know     2%


“Internships often involve learning about yourself, including the type of environment that’s best suited to your personality,” said Megan Slabinski, executive director of The Creative Group. “Many programs also serve as a crash course in how to get along with various personality types -- an ability that can benefit people throughout their careers.”

Slabinski warned, however, that not all internships are created equal. “The best internships are structured and provide plenty of opportunity to learn and observe,” she said. “While a certain amount of grunt work can be expected, applicants should target programs that provide exposure to a range of projects, people and experiences.”

The Creative Group offers the following tips for landing beneficial internships:

  • Don’t be shy. The best programs fill up early, and competition may be especially fierce in this economy. Aggressively pursue attractive internships. Showing some chutzpah, while still acting professionally, can work in your favor.
  • Put on the polish. Your cover letter, resume and portfolio should be professional and without error. Likewise, when interviewing, your dress should be appropriate for the work environment.
  • Assess the real value. While internships that pay well are attractive, carefully consider a program before committing to it. You might be better off with an internship that pays less, or is unpaid, but is dedicated to creating valuable experiences.
  • Show your independent side. Many firms are stretched thin right now, so demonstrating an ability to work without a lot of direct supervision can be a plus.
  • Exhibit a can-do attitude. Inquire about the firm’s greatest challenges and needs, and then propose how your skills and experience can help.
  • Emphasize your social media skills. Many firms seek professionals who can help them implement compelling e-marketing initiatives. If you’re a whiz with tools like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, you could have an advantage.

Added Slabinski, “Companies that may not be hiring full-time employees due to the economy may still offer summer internships, providing recent graduates a foot in the door with prospective employers. Internships that go well can transition into full-time jobs.”

About The Creative Group
The Creative Group specializes in placing a range of highly skilled creative, advertising, marketing and web professionals with a variety of firms on a project and full-time basis. The Creative Group’s internal account managers typically have prior experience working within the creative industry, which helps them better understand their clients’ needs and their freelancers’ unique talents. Headquartered in Menlo Park, Calif., the firm has offices in major markets across the United States and in Canada. More information, including online job-hunting services, candidate portfolios and The Creative Group’s award-winning career magazine, can be found at www.creativegroup.com.

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