by Kim Jao, Inc. Editorial Intern

Think about your first job, that definitive moment when your career began. What was it like to step into the workplace for the first time? How did it feel to receive your first paycheck? 

For many folks these days, that first job, by necessity, is an internship. In fact, a 2021 survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that companies view internships as the most influential factor in a hiring decision when choosing between two equally qualified early career candidates.

And while internships are a great opportunity for students and young workers to get their foot in the door somewhere and learn valuable on-the-job experience that they can't get in a classroom, interns can also be a great pipeline for emerging talent, fresh perspective, and of course, extra hands during your busiest seasons. 

That's Salesforce founder Marc Benioff's philosophy on young talent. Alex Murray, senior director for programs, marketing and communications, at the San Francisco-based CRM software maker, explained Benioff's perspective to Inc. "One of the things he talks about a lot is a beginner's mind and how critical it is for our employees to really lean into having a beginner's mind and being able to see the world with fresh eyes," she says. "And that's really what our early talent brings to our products. They have that unique perspective that really isn't found anywhere else. Not only are they going to be our future employees but they could potentially be our future customers."

But how do you decide whether you should start an internship program? What makes a good internship program and where can you find the best students? What are the best practices to work with Gen-Z, and how is the landscape of intern hiring looking in 2024? 

The state of the internship 

As important as internships are today, internship opportunities are not easy to come by for many students: A 2023 Gallup Poll found that approximately 41 percent of college students have had an internship while pursuing a bachelor's degree. The top reason students don't have one, the poll says, is due to difficulty in obtaining a position. Many internship programs see thousands of applicants for summer positions, but companies can only accommodate a small fraction of this group. 

For example, Krista Bush, vice president of global employee experience at St. Louis-based World Wide Technology, says the 2024 summer internship cycle saw 5,000 applicants, but only 250 interns were chosen. 

At World Wide Technology, Bush says it's important to provide interns with career development opportunities. That's why the company spends eight to 10 hours a week coaching its interns, and providing workshops on leadership, DEI, company culture and trust. She adds that the internship team also helps interns build strong résumés and teaches them presentation skills to help them integrate into the corporate world. The program also involves a variety of networking events. 


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