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At CatchMark, we are always looking for a win-win situation. With customers, vendors, and yes – even with our interns. Why? I will explain that below.

Internships are an opportunity to network with great people and sharpen your skills before entering the workforce. They also help with figuring out your true passion. Companies often look at them as a way to gain experience and exposure to make a smooth transition into your role when hired. Just having a good degree is no longer enough to secure that all-important graduate job offer in today’s world. As a result, internships have become an essential way to help candidates make themselves stand out.

The history

The concept of working as an intern began a long time ago but has drastically evolved over the years. Internships first started as a laborer who would take on young individuals and teach them their art or trade. In exchange for being taught a skill, the trainee would agree to work for the laborer for a specific time. Even then, the purpose of an internship, or rather an apprenticeship, was to gain new skills to be able to obtain future work.

In modern interning, an intern can work for an organization for a specific amount of time. Interns can work for one to 12 months or longer, depending on the company and the industry. Internships are popular among graduate and undergraduate students who need to gain research or valuable work experience. Almost every sector and type of company, from a large multi-national corporation to a small startup, now offers internships. The vast number of internship opportunities available indicates the importance of an internship in today’s world.

The internship concept as the intern

Getting work experience is more important than ever to start off your career. It helps you demonstrate your commitment and capabilities to an employer while highlighting the skills that are important to the position you are applying for.

As valuable as education and a degree is, in the technology space, colleges and universities cannot keep up with the speed at which technology is advancing and changing. The courses being taught are often outdated by the time students complete the courses. An internship gives you exposure to the real world. You are able to gain real-life exposure, grow your knowledge, and determine if you are in the right career field.

Internships not only provide you first-hand experience in the real working world but also enable you to understand the career trajectory for your desired job title. You can learn how to apply the knowledge you have acquired during an internship to your future workplaces.

You may start as an intern in a specific field. But the more you explore it, the more you will discover about it. Every industry has its pros and cons. Working in a real-world environment will help you understand the depths of your field and will help you determine whether it is a career you wish to pursue in the future.

An internship will help you learn about your capabilities and ultimately encourage you to have a greater understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. It can be a challenging experience at times. Still, the benefits you gain from being pushed out of your comfort zone will help you tremendously in the future when you are presented with a difficult task or situation.

When you are working as a professional for an organization, business knowledge and technical knowledge are not the only things that the industry demands. You need people skills as well – because no matter how good you are, you won’t stand a chance of succeeding in any profession unless you develop a collaborative work ethic and learn to be a team player.

On top of that, you need to know how to work under pressure, and why deadlines matter. An internship gives you exposure to the challenges of a work environment and having experience in these situations will be useful to talk about in future interviews and show employers that you will be a good fit for their company.

The internship concept as a business

Companies of all sizes and industries hire interns to gain valuable support for the business and its existing employees. Internships allow companies to invest in their own future success and perhaps discover new talent and future leaders. Interns can take on lower-level tasks, freeing up time for colleagues to handle other work, though more internships now offer responsibilities that go beyond administrative duties.

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates the price of a bad hire at around 30 percent of that employee’s first-year salary. Sometimes a new employee makes a solid impression in the interview but simply doesn’t jell with your current team or the way your company operates. Because of this, hiring someone as an intern is an effective way to evaluate his or her potential. When you “try out” candidates via a semester or summer internship, you make fewer mistakes when it comes to full-time staffing. Interns bring more to the table than just an extra set of hands. New people bring new perspectives that can break up the status quo as well as specialized strengths and skill sets.

Businesses want hard workers. They need individuals who can follow instructions and help the company run smoothly and efficiently. Interns can do that and are a low-cost option whose energy, eagerness to learn, and broad skill sets can be highly beneficial.

Assigning interns lower-level tasks or adding them to current projects can help free up your more experienced staff to concentrate on core business activities. That way, your employees are less stretched and have more time to deliver a higher quality of work. Instead, when you transfer work to interns, the extra pairs of hands can help accomplish goals and complete projects faster and improve your organization’s productivity. Additionally, it offers interns a great learning experience.

Interns are motivated by the possibility of full-time employment to deliver high work standards and know that every day brings the opportunity to learn something new that could benefit their career or improve them as workers. When you have individuals hungry to learn and who have the skills you need, it improves your company’s capabilities to grow in new, exciting directions.

As current employees mentor and supervise interns, they’ll gain valuable leadership skills. This can be great training for an employee who will eventually occupy a management position. Supervising interns is often less stressful than supervising already established employees. Mentoring and guiding others often motivates employees to hold themselves more accountable and become effective leaders. In this way, adding interns to your company can enhance and multiply leadership.

How has this worked for CatchMark?

We started our internship program in the summer of 2017. A Montague alumnus was finishing up his degree at Grand Valley State University and needed an internship to fill the graduation requirements. We were growing at that time and thought it would be a win-win. His major was in Computer Science and he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do but it wasn’t tech support.

Well, that is exactly what the internship was for! He gave it a go and excelled at it. We knew very early on that he was the type of person we wanted for our team. Before we knew it, the internship was up, he had accepted an offer to join CatchMark full-time, and Curtis Holden is still with us today as one of our Senior Support Specialists.

Each summer since, we have brought on interns to assist in our different service areas. They don’t all end up joining us full-time but that is all right. We know that the time spent with CatchMark gave them great experience and provided us with help to support our customers.

My daughter completed an internship with CatchMark working with our Cyber Security Team. She came in open-minded that this could be something she does long-term. She did very well but decided it wasn’t what she wanted to do long-term so she went on to pursue another path. I am happy that she gave it a try and even happier that she didn’t settle for something that wasn’t going to make her happy long-term. If you don’t try, how will you ever know?

This summer our tech services team has three interns.

Ryan Miller will be headed back to Michigan Tech for his final year in late-August. Ryan picked up on our processes quickly and has been a great help this summer. He hasn’t decided on where he will land after finishing out his courses but we have let him know we would love to have him on our team if it works out for both parties.

Matt Lohman is with us for his third summer. He will be returning to Michigan State University for his junior year in the fall. Matt has grown dramatically each summer with us and has learned some valuable lessons in customer service and how business works. He is another one that we would love to have on our team long-term.

Our third intern this summer is Owen Raeth — yes, another Raeth! Owen will be a senior at Montague High School this year and is trying to decide what he wants to do in the future. He attends the MAISD Career Tech Center and has been learning different skills within the tech space. He is more interested in the hands of activities than sitting at a desk all day. Knowing that, we are trying to get him involved in as much of that work as we can. While not doing that, he is helping out our team where he can and learning some great troubleshooting skills to help him as he advances in his career.

Explore the opportunities

If you are a business owner or a student, look for internship opportunities! They provide great learning opportunities for all who are involved. It can lead to opening doors and maybe finding the right person your team needs as a business. As an intern, you may find something you are truly passionate about that can lead you to a successful career.