© 2011 Idaho Press-Tribune

TREASURE VALLEY — College students and recent grads run into a common phrase when applying for jobs: “Must have experience.” The problem is, how can you gain experience if no one will hire you?

One option is to become an intern.

Not only will an internship increase your chances of finding a job, but it gives employers a chance to know you before hiring you, Dora Gallegos, director of the College of Idaho Center for Experiential Learning said. “In today’s market, networking is key.”

Employers are using internships more often than they did four years ago, said Regional Labor Economist John Van Dyke with the Idaho Department of Labor.

“Every employer says internship experience is invaluable,” Boise State University Career Center Director Debbie Kaler said.

Unpaid internships are increasing due to the economy, she said, but even these can offer school credit, experience and potential for a paying job. “Doing volunteer work allows you to build your network and meet people that might be able to connect you with future job opportunities.”

With an Idaho unemployment rate of 9.6 percent — and a national seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate of 17.3 percent for 16 to 24 year olds, Van Dyke said — some job seekers may go a year with no job, leaving a large gap on their resumes.

Interning or volunteering will fill that gap and show potential employers they are still actively engaged in trying to find employment, said Mitchell Post, a supervisor with the Idaho Department of Labor Meridian office. “It keeps them busy and keeps their skills up to date.”

BSU facilitates between 1300 and 1500 internships each year. About one-third of these interns obtain a full-time job as a result, Kaler said.

Because interns are usually young, they tend to “offer some perspective into social media, which is an important marketing tool,” said Bibiana Nertney, an administrator in the marketing division of the Idaho Department of Commerce. “They’re usually tech savvy, and we don’t have to spend a lot of time teaching them a technological program.”

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