What If I Don’t Get An Internship?

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In the current employment market, at least in the accounting profession, one of the most dependable ways to successfully enter the workforce is through internship programs in both public accounting and in industry.  With unemployment being at record lows, and with succession being a major concern for many firms, getting an internship is much easier than in years past.  And they pay much better as well!

But what do you do if you aren’t able to get an internship during your years as a student?  Perhaps it’s because you didn’t realize those opportunities were available, or perhaps you had to make another life choice that precluded you from being able to pursue an internship.  Or maybe it was simply that you didn’t find the right internship and the window of opportunity closed with you on the outside.  What do you do then?

The internship path is definitely the best route to go if you want to test out different career paths, as well as in order to get pre-graduation offers, but it isn’t the only route.  If you find yourself nearing graduation, or post-internship season, without having secured your post-graduation job, there are many actions that you can take:

  • Part-time work. In the “old days”, the word internship meant unpaid work.  What we call an “internship” today was what many older accountants would have simply referred to as a part-time job.  If you can’t find a traditional “internship”, then look at small or mid-size companies for meaningful part-time work within your field.  Accounting experience is accounting experience.  Whether it is officially labeled as an “internship” or not really doesn’t matter much.
  • People you know. There is an old saying that when you are unemployed, then your full-time job is to find a job.  This can be applied here as well.  If you are part-time unemployed, then your part-time job is to find part-time work.  Get busy contacting former classmates and anyone else that you may know with contacts in your profession.  In a tight labor market, it doesn’t take long to find work if you publicize the fact that you are looking.  The trap that many individuals fall into though is that they only reactively look for opportunity – they wait for it to become visible to them.  They don’t proactively seek it out.  Being pro-active is a key to success in both the internship process and when looking on your own.
  • People you don’t know… yet. Another activity that makes sense when you are seeking work, whether full-time or part-time, is to be active in organizations.  Generally it’s best to be active in organizations related to your profession, but even general business or civic organizations can be beneficial.  If you don’t know the people you need to know, then go on an expedition to find them.  Don’t wait for them to find you.
  • Target smaller organizations. While many large organizations have formal internship programs and therefore actively seek out interns, smaller organizations don’t necessarily have a formal program because they only have one or two entry-level slots available.  If you find yourself needing, or even wanting, to look for opportunity outside of the large employer base, then directly approach smaller or mid-size companies where you may want to work.  Yes, there may be less opportunities available, but the competition is also lower.  Sometimes you can find the best match by taking this approach.

Coming up to graduation without having had an internship experience isn’t ideal, but it also isn’t something that you can’t recover from.  If for some reason you find yourself in this situation, it just means that you have to work a little harder to chart your own path.  For many people, this actually can lead to a much better fit.

As always, I wish you the best in your career.

Mark Goldman CPA