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Leveraging Internships for More Than Resume Building

Reflecting on their summer internships, most students in a survey released Wednesday said the work they performed wasn't particularly meaningful, although they hoped the experience would look good on their resume.

About 68 percent of college interns said on most days they did not work on what they'd hope to do in a full-time career, according to a survey of 500 interns conducted by Northwestern Mutual on Facebook. The most important part of their internship for 44 percent of the respondents: ddding experience to their resume.

While it's good that internships make students more marketable, it's discouraging that many are not getting real-world work experience, according to Steven Mannebach, vice president of field growth and development at Northwestern.

To have a positive internship, Mannebach suggests students research the organization beforehand and find out if they'll be given the chance to acquire skills that will help them be successful after graduation. Students should also set clear objectives at the start of the internship and review them periodically to help ensure they are building the skills that match their career plan.

Going into an internship, students should read up on the industry and learn about trends and major players, an article in Forbes magazine suggests. They can leverage their knowledge of social media and share strategies for communication with senior management.

As with any job, interns need to work hard and get over the idea that a task is beneath them. A sense of entitlement is the number one issue with interns, say human-resource managers in the Forbes article. Interns should get into the habit of expressing personal gratitude and write a note of thanks to anyone who taught them something.

A piece in U.S. News suggests students "rock" their internship by taking their work seriously, paying attention to detail, and asking for feedback.

Internships can be critical for young people today in the tough labor market where 16 percent of Americans age 16 to 24 are out of work and many are underemployed.

For high school students, a good internship can keep them engaged in their senior year, help expose them to career options, and build their college-application resume.

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