Lauren Berger, 28, is CEO of InternQueen.com, an online internship destination that helps students find and apply for internships while also educating them on how to make the most of their experiences. Her new book, All Work, No Pay: Finding an Internship, Building Your Resume, Making Connections, and Gaining Job Experience, is a guide to help students score the perfect internship, build invaluable connections, boost transferable skills, and ultimately move toward a dream career. Ypulse had the chance to get Lauren’s perspective on how internships have changed in our fast-moving, competitive culture and how students and employers can get the most out of the internship experience.
Ypulse: How has the internship model changed in the past decade?
Lauren Berger: The model hasn’t changed much but due to recent law suits, there is pressure on companies to really structure the internships (a good thing!) It’s also become much more popular and competitive over the past 5 years.
YP: How has the competition among students affected their strategies in the search process?
LB: Students are starting to intern as early as high school! With high school students coming to college WITH internships under their belt, it puts pressure on college students to start interning at an earlier stage of their college career.
YP: Wow, no wonder Millennials are the most stressed generation, and it seems to be getting more intense among the next generation.
YP: In addition to the model becoming more structured, you also talk about protection laws in your book and what interns should know about in terms of labor and ownership of work. Can you describe a bit more about what that entails?
LB: I believe that young people need to be armed with information. The Fair Labor Standards Act was created by the U.S. Department of Labor to protect interns and establish some guidelines and clarity for internship programs. Students should be familiar with the six criteria that define an “unpaid internship”. I list and explain these in my book!
YP: From an employer perspective, what advice would you give companies when interviewing a prospective intern of the Millennial generation? Are there any misconceptions about this generation they should be on the lookout for?
LB: I always tell employers to stress questions about commitment. Sometimes the biggest concern is the intern will “flake” or “disappear”. Ask questions like, “What does the word commitment mean to you?” “Describe a time where you experienced an obstacle but saw the situation through.”
YP: Yes, flightiness among this generation has become a challenge for employers. How many internships do you recommend taking on before taking on a fulltime position?
LB: I encourage students to get 2-3 internships under their belt before graduation.
YP: What are some of the best internship experiences you’ve had and why?
LB: I loved when companies let me sit-in on meetings to take notes and observe how they communicated in a professional setting. I always encourage employers to allow their interns to sit-in.
YP: How can both the employer and intern make the best out of an internship?
LB: The employer should use the intern as a “think tank” and hold brainstorming sessions with them. Ask them how they feel about your clients, products, marketing techniques, and services. The intern should try to learn as much as he/she can, read everything, meet everyone, and focus on the lasting impression.
YP: What are the best ways for students to differentiate themselves before (application / interview process) and during an internship?
LB: Put yourself in the employers’ shoes. Read the job / internship description carefully. What are they looking for? Incorporate buzzwords from the posting into your resume and cover letter. Also, don’t just list extracurricular activities – really explain what you did at each experience and show the employer what these skills have taught you.
YP: What are some ways students can build their network while interning?
LB: Introduce yourself to everyone and keep track of who you meet! Write all of these people hand-written thank you notes after the internship, make sure you have their contact information, and stay in touch three times per year!
YP: What’s next in 2013 for InternQueen?
LB: We are continuing to grow and expand into every region and every industry. Currently, we are the hottest internship company on the market and I can’t wait to eventually work with every student from every school on the planet and help point them in the right direction!
For companies interested in posting internships on InternQueen.com contact www.internqueen.com/contact. You can also follow Lauren on Twitter @InternQueen and to purchase her book “All Work, No Pay” go here.