Internship certainly counts toward professional experience. You’ve spent months in a real-world work environment, learned practical skills, contributed to the delivery of work goals and possibly been paid for it. In fact, over the years, the structure of internships has evolved greatly leading to a blurring of the lines separating an intern from a full-time employee. This has sometimes stirred controversy given that interns are compensated far less (if at all) than full-time employees.
But while you are free to have internship on your resume as work experience, whether it’s appropriate to include it and the prominence you give it largely depends on where you are in your career at the time of applying for a new job.
1. Entry-Level Professional
As a recent graduate or newly qualified professional who’s just entering the job market, it can be difficult to demonstrate to prospective employers that you possess the knowledge and skills needed to deliver on a role. Training an employee takes time, money and effort. Ergo, organizations prefer to go for someone who can hit the ground running, as opposed to one who has to be taken through elaborate training before they can make a meaningful contribution.
An internship can give you the edge. So as you create your resume either manually or through online resume makers such as ResumeBuild.com, you’ll find that internship stint will likely be the sole entry in the work experience section. Avoid using the general, ambiguous term ‘intern’. Instead, be more descriptive e.g. marketing intern, audit intern, customer service intern, HR intern, finance intern, IT intern etc.
2. Early Career Professional
If you’ve held one or two full-time jobs and have three years of work experience or less, your internship should still be a significant part of your work experience. Experience is listed in reverse chronological order on your resume. Therefore, list your full-time work experience first and mention the internship last.
At this point, you have spent more time at full-time jobs than you did at internships. Internship matters but significantly less than it would for the entry-level professional.
1. Established Professional
Once you exceed three years as a full-time professional, you can continue to have your internship in the work experience section but now relegate it to a career note at the end of this section. You no longer need to delve into it much unless you worked with name-drop worthy clients or contributed to a notable project.
You should also consider adding a line or two of explanation if there are important work experiences from your internship that you, so far, haven’t realized as a full-time professional.
2. Mid-Career Professional
On clocking seven years as a full-time professional, it may be time to drop an internship from your experience altogether. Unless you are considering a career change that’s supported by the internship but not the full-time experience you’ve chalked up so far, it’s no longer necessary to bring up your internship to persuade a prospective employer on why they should hire you.
In any case, given your internship took place more than seven years ago, several of the things you learned back then may no longer be relevant to the job market today. Instead, you should bank on your more recent accomplishments and work experiences.
Actually, you do not have to wait till you are a mid-career professional to get rid of internship on your resume. After all, you want to keep your resume as compact as possible. If you have a string of achievements by year three or four that crowd out your internship phase, feel free to remove it.
To maximize the impact your internship has in your professional experience section, make sure you are ready for any questions around it that come up during the interview stage. Note down and memorize the skills you acquired with emphasis on the ones that are most relevant to the position you are interviewing for. Think up anecdotes that illustrate your practical application of skills you learned. Mention how the internship influenced your career path aspirations.