NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — Looking for a job? Consider an internship instead.
With hiring slowed to a near-standstill, job seekers are finding that internship programs are one of the best ways to land a full-time job down the road.
The majority – 59% – of employers who plan to hire interns said they are likely to hire their interns as full-time, permanent employees, according to a recent CareerBuilder.com survey.
That’s what worked for Robert Ball. In the semester before graduating from Middle Tennessee State University, Ball, 24, pleaded with his professors to let him participate in an internship program at Frontier Airlines in Denver in lieu of the few remaining credits he needed to graduate.
The internship didn’t guarantee a job with the airline and didn’t pay a dime, but Ball was determined to get in the door – even if it meant getting a waiver from school, moving to Denver and asking his parents for financial assistance.
“I always wanted to work for an airline,” Ball said. “I knew that an internship would make me more appealing to employers after graduation.”
When the internship ended in December without an offer, Ball went back to Tennessee to graduate and begin applying for jobs. “It was really tough,” he says.
Ball still had his sights set on Frontier, and thanks to a good report from his internship coordinator, he was eventually hired in February as a revenue management analyst.
Now, Ball is responsible for analyzing booking data to help determine fares.
But it’s not just college kids clamoring for internships. Midlevel executives are also finding that scoring a spot in an internship program can lead them to a job.
Marketing professional Michelle Patterson, 40, has been out of work since the beginning of January. Struggling to transition from book publishing to digital media, Patterson says she will gladly intern to help convince employers to give her a chance.
“I would be flexible for their schedule and even work for free, if it leads to full-time work,” she said.
Intern Bridge’s Internship Best Practices survey found that 70% of respondents would accept less pay, or even no pay, if it meant a promising work experience.
“For me, the ‘in’ that I got with the internship was payment enough,” Ball said of his internship with Frontier.
And companies are now far more open to hiring executives, in addition to students, as interns, according to Rosemary Haefner of CareerBuilder.com.
“It’s like an extended job interview,” Haefner said. Job hopefuls can learn about the job and acquire new skills, while gauging whether the position is a good fit for them, she said.
For employers, internships help keep costs and staff levels down, while still maintaining a pool of talent on reserve for when the economy picks up again.
Going forward, the use of internships will rise as organizations recognize the advantages of cheaper labor, Intern Bridge founder Richard Bottner forecasts.