More and more, our coaching practice supports digital natives in their transition from college to work. Over the coming weeks I’ll share with you this 3-part series not to be missed! Navigating The “College To Work Transition” in a Digital Era Series.

Digital Natives are defined as young adults who were born or brought up during the age of digital technology and therefore familiar with computers and the Internet from an early age. This generation has to navigate way more complexity than their predecessors. Speed, technology and tough competition all play a part. Layer on top of that, the fact that finding an internship is an extroverted process that relies heavily on networking.  So it’s tough but the payoffs are huge. Here’s why you need to land that internship and fast:

1.Internships provide you with the SOFT SKILLS or EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE you don’t often get in college. If you’re wondering why you keep hearing the term “soft skills” everywhere lately, that’s because it’s what employers are looking for and too many candidates are lacking. According to a recent study by LinkedIn, “59% of 291 U.S. hiring managers surveyed said they had difficulty finding candidates with so-called ‘soft skills’—the interpersonal skills that can make a workplace function smoothly.”(CBS News MoneyWatch, August 31, 2016). These intangible skills are the one thing you don’t get at college and qualities you haven’t had the chance to develop or practice. In addition to communication, soft skills include a wide range of personal attributes you need to succeed in the workplace. Employers expect new hires to have these competencies. That’s why internships are the perfect place to learn and develop these qualities such as ability to listen, adaptability, composure under pressure, assertiveness, conflict resolution, critical thinking, problem solving, dependability, eagerness to learn, organization, meeting management, accepting criticism and many more.

2. Internships provide you with valuable INTERVIEW TALKING POINTS. Let’s face it, the best candidates for a job have broad experience to draw upon when attempting to articulate for a potential employer that they can do the job. If you answer all their questions about times you showed leadership and demonstrated character with examples from athletic teams in your past, you won’t be a competitive candidate. After completing an internship, you will not only have had the chance to develop the soft skills discussed above, you will have had experiences that allow you to demonstrate to potential employers that you’ve actually built those skills and used them in the workplace. That makes you a much more qualified candidate.

3. Internships give you the opportunity to ASSESS THE CAREER PATH you’ve chosen first hand. Most students only have a theoretical knowledge of the careers they’re pursuing. You don’t want to wait until you’re committed to a career to realize whether it’s the right fit for you. You wouldn’t buy a pair of shoes without trying them on. Try on several internships before you graduate to best know what work truly inspires you. According to Look Sharp’s 2016 ‘State of Millenial Hiring Report”, “research indicates that graduates who complete three or more internships are more likely to secure full-time employment, with 81.1% of graduates reporting internships helped them shift their career directions either significantly (34.8%) or slightly (46.3%) by changing the focus of classes or majors. Further, Knouse and Fountenot found that, in addition to having employment opportunities evolve directly from their internship sites upon graduation, interns have enhanced employability after completing their internships even prior to graduation”. (National Association of Colleges and Employers Journal, May 2017)

4. Internships give you a chance for MENTORSHIP AND NETWORKING. If you’re lucky, you’ll develop a relationship with individuals in your field who take an interest in your development and offer you guidance. Keep in touch with these mentors as you continue your studies as they will provide advice and contacts that will assist you in your job search and your career over a lifetime. They will also be your references when applying for jobs.

5. Internships give you REAL WORLD EXPERIENCE. This may seem obvious, but the best way to evaluate your chosen career path and develop your specific area of interest within the field is to spend a significant amount of time in a firm observing professionals at work. Unfortunately, some students are intimidated about applying for internships because they don’t have real world experience. It’s a conundrum, right? You have a solid educational foundation, and you’re a great worker in your summer job, but you don’t think you have anything to offer in the real world. That type of timid attitude won’t get you anywhere. As Wayne Gretzky said, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. So take a shot on applying for an internship. The whole purpose of an internship is to offer you the chance to learn and give you an opportunity to get hands on experience. You can be an asset if you go in eager to learn, willing to share the knowledge you already have and open-minded to the opportunities that present themselves.

Many students work part time internships during the school year. If you chose waiting tables over interning this past summer because of financial goals or out of default because you didn’t get the internship offer you had hoped for, don’t despair.

There are firms who need interns during the academic year and are willing to accommodate part time attendance based on your class schedule. Why bother? Get an internship, get the job you love, live the life you want. It all starts with that first step.


DEBBIE VAN SOLKEMA, is a career coach with expertise in guiding Digital Natives towards identifying their passions, teaching them to target jobs that will best utilize their skills and tap their interests, and providing them with the confidence and tools they will need for a lifetime in navigating their careers. To connect with Debbie on how she can assist you and your organization, visit our contact page or message her directly at