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Internship is a good career move

An internship is a trade-off: time versus money.

An intern trades time receiving little or no pay for the promise of experience, contacts and references that will boost his or her fledgling career.

In some professions, like medicine and architecture, an internship is required. In others, it can help you bypass the first-rung-on-the-ladder job in favor of something more interesting that might come with a higher salary.

"Internships are something that can give you a leg up in your first job," says Martin Yate, author of several books on hiring and getting hired, including "Knock 'Em Dead 2008: The Ultimate Job Search Guide."

Bill Coplin, professor of public affairs at Syracuse University and author of "25 Ways to Make College Pay Off," agrees.

"If you're a parent and you're investing in your kid's education, and your kid doesn't get an internship, you have a problem, because your investment's not as valuable," says Coplin.

When it comes to landing a plum position, it helps to get experience related to the job you want, says Andrea Koncz, employment information manager for the association. "They do place a high value on that."

While it's hard to put a dollar figure on the gains from an internship, it has an impact, says Grant Reeher, associate professor of political science at Syracuse University and one of the editors of "The Insider's Guide to Political Internships."

"It's a big boost to their careers, first of all because it opens the door to a potential job right away," says Donald Rebovich, who as director of the economic crime investigation program at Utica College oversees its internship program.

Many of the companies Utica works with say they are looking for interns who could become permanent employees, he says.

"They have three months to observe an individual, what their skill sets are, how they develop, how they fit into an organization," says Rebovich. "When they interview for a job, they have more than a resume to base it on."

Gaining the edge
If you've already done an internship before you get an architecture degree, "When you graduate, you have a leg up," says Grace Kim, member of the American Institute of Architects, or AIA, and principal and co-founder of Schemata Workshop, a Seattle-based architectural firm.

"It goes on your resume, and when you're going out to an interview, it's a serious tie-breaker," says Yate, who has hired several interns himself. "It's real work experience."

These days, that means something.

"People entering the world of work today are entering a more competitive world than ever before," he says.

If you're really lucky, along with letters of recommendation and good experience, you might have a boss who will help you prep for those first interviews or even give you a lead on a job, he says. Some companies hire up to 50 percent of their interns, he says.

Next: "Look for upward mobility."
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