“How do I get a job if I don’t have experience?”
Every year, college students ask that same question. These days, the question takes on greater urgency. According to a 2014 Accenture study, just 42 percent of 2012 and 2013 college grads found work within six months of graduation. Another 41 percent earned $25,000 or less. Most damning of all, only 48 percent received training from their first employer.
So how can students get training and experience? One option is an internship. For employers, every hire carries big risks – particularly with job-hopping new graduates. Here, it can cost employers up to 50 percent of their salary to find a replacement. And that doesn’t factor in variables like opportunity costs or benefits. As a result, employers are seeking new hires with track records, not just potential and people skills. With internships, students can prove themselves and gain experience. A successful internship also helps students build their networks, bestowing an informal certification that they possess the skills and maturity to mitigate their inherent risk.
Alas, not all internships are created equal. At some companies, college interns work on key projects, gaining hands-on experience alongside seasoned mentors. However, others are relegated to repetitive tasks and busy work. These students may be exposed to a respected brand, but they’re not being prepared to hit the ground running.
VAULT’S NEW RANKING IDENTIFIES THE BEST INTERNSHIP PROGRAMS
In other words, just landing an internship isn’t enough. Students should also focus on finding the ‘right’ internship: a structured program where they’ll receive resources and real work. To help students identify the best learning opportunities, Vault has produced a “Top Internship Rankings” for the past three years.
“Today, 40 percent of all entry-level full-time hires in the U.S. are sourced through internship programs,” writes Derek Loosvelt, a senior editor at Vault. “This means that, for those looking to work for the most desired and admired employers in the country, internships are no longer a luxury but a necessity.”
Vault, which collects data from employers and professionals, released its internship rankings in November. Based on a 2015 survey, these rankings include responses from over 5800 interns at 100 different internship programs. Here, students ranked five areas on a scale of 1-to-10, with 10 being the highest score. The ratings covered quality of life (office culture, work hours, flexibility); compensation and benefits (pay structure and perks); interview process (application and interview process); career development (quality of training, mentoring, assignments, and networking opportunities); and full-time employment prospects. Vault elected not to publish specific company scores in each of these five areas.
These survey scores were then averaged to produce an overall score for each internship program. Vault also ranked programs in seven industries, including consulting, investment banking, consumer goods, and media. While most respondents were undergraduates, eight or nine percent of the pool included MBA students.
BATES WHITE TOPS THE LIST
Looking to get into consulting? While an internship from McKinsey or Deloitte may draw attention, your best bet for meaningful assignments and a supportive culture may come at Washington DC’s Bates White, a 15 year-old firm that provides economic consulting to law firms, Fortune 500 companies, and government agencies. So what sets Bates White apart?
For starters, the firm provides valuable experience to interns. “I loved being able to work on challenging, complicated, real world issues, while developing valuable quantitative skills that are transferable to nearly any career path,” one former intern tells Vault. Another reinforces this point. “You will learn (or improve upon) a number of valuable and marketable skills. You will make a meaningful contribution to the firm’s work.”
Bates White’s culture is another big draw for interns. “Everyone here is very welcoming and willing to answer questions and help,” gushes one intern. “There are also a lot of fun events for interns to get to know each other.” Another cited easy access to the firm’s leaders. “Everyone at the firm, from consultants and managers to partners, was friendly and willing to provide mentorship. I even had the opportunity to discuss career paths over coffee with the COO.”
In an era where interns are sometimes viewed as free labor, a former intern shares that Bates White’s pay is “great” too. With interns giving Bates White a collective 9.70 score, you won’t find many complaints. “I honestly think you would be hard-pressed to find a better internship program, no matter your field of study,” one intern summed up.