when should internships come off your resume?

A reader writes:

When should internships come off your resume? I graduated a year ago and accepted a one-year, post-grad, entry-level position which ended recently and I am onto my second job since graduation. I was fortunate enough to intern with three really well known companies in my field during my undergrad years that are thought of as highly competitive. These internships clearly gave me in advantage in both post-grad positions.

Now that I have finally settled into my first real job ( I don’t consider the one-year post-grad program a real job since it was not permanent and was without benefits), when should I take off the internships from my resume? I do not plan on job searching any time soon, but I feel like if I were to ever part from my current job, my resume would really skimpy without those internships. Also since I work in the creative field, I have really refined projects from those internships in my portfolio.

Will these positions simply age themselves out and no longer become relevant say 3 or 4 years or should they come off now that I am no longer seeking junior level work?

The test is not whether you’re seeking work at the same level as the internships were. If that were the case, no one would ever have anything on their resume except for their last job.

The idea is that your resume shows the breadth and progression of your experience. If your internship experience is relevant to the jobs you’re applying for, or if they help paint a picture of your career progression, or if your resume would seem sparse without them, they stay.

They should come off only when you feel they no longer strengthen your candidacy or present a picture of who you are. That time is not now, as you only left the internship-period of your life a year ago. If I had to come up with a general rule to quantify it, I’d say that for most people that time will be somewhere between five and ten years after graduation.

To make this more intuitive, think like an employer: Would you rather hire a candidate who appears to have only had one or two jobs, or someone who spent their time in college getting work experience too? At 35, what you did in college probably isn’t going to matter that much. But when college was only a few years ago, it’s still relevant.

{ 6 comments… read them below }

  1. thomast*

    Sound advice as usual from AAM. One thing I'll throw in, just because I've been working on my own resume for the first time in several years and have to trim the old stuff, is that there's the possibility of a middle ground between on-with-details and off entirely. I'm "archiving" my earlier jobs into a "Previous Experience Includes:" mini-section that just lists titles and companies (maybe dates &/or cities; I haven't decided). The OP's internships could at some point go into a similar section, though probably not yet.

  2. Kat*

    I felt much the same when I started a new job. Good advice from AAM, I would add also that finding common ground with others will establish rapport, ie( if they have pets, ask them about them, who is their vet since you happen to looking a another vet or if they have a great haircut, tell them and ask them you're looking for a new stylist. Take notice and it also helps if you keep a candy dish on your desk! Good luck and never forget everyone at one point was a beginner!

  3. Anonymous*

    If I received a resume from someone with ten years experience with an internship on it, I would have doubts about the candidate. In ten years a person should have accomplished more to recommend them for the job, that is more relevant than their internship. In fact even at five years I would be questioning it.

    I will add that, like OP mentions, I too work in a creative profession. I do think that changes things.

    For another type of job, the hiring decision is an equation that includes the resume, the cover letter, the interview, and the references. And the resume and interview are the two most important aspects.

    For creative jobs, the portfolio is the dominant factor. In many cases even more so than the interview. The resume is sort of down there with the cover letter, in terms of how much weight it has on the hiring process. It is absolutely critical that the portfolio show 'breadth and progression', but not so much the resume. In fact in a creative profession, where accomplishments are graphic or tangible, rather than numeric or measurable, it is almost impossible to show breadth and progression on a resume–with or without an internship.

  4. Question Asker*

    I am the question asker! Thanks AAM so much for this great advice.

    Thomast I think your suggestion of a previous experience section is a great alternative. It would free up real estate on the page for giving deets about the more relative experience while still noting my commitment to this industry.

  5. Question Asker*

    Anonymous you make really good points too that I know to be true. I was advised to get rid of my internships after my first job. But some of my internships projects in my portfolio are very professional and I don't see myself dropping them anytime soon.

    You are right the weight a resume holds in most cases, but when you work for companies like the new job I took where the resume goes to HR first who usually has not seen a sample yet and are generally not visually literate even if they do see a sample, the resume will count more than say an agency atmosphere where your stuff may land on a senior designer or art director's desk first.

    My last two jobs involved resumes going to an HR person who puts more stock on the resume and who decides which candidates the creatives see.

  6. vvondervvoman*

    As a fresh graduate, I put a lot of things in the “experience” section that were internships, extra-curriculars, and volunteer work. All extremely related to the jobs I was applying for, but now that I have more substantial work experience, I needed to consolidate/bump them. But I also need them on the actual page to demonstrate that I’ve worked with diverse populations in a direct service capacity (very important in my field). So what I did/have been doing is creating a “Volunteer Work” section and paring it down to 2 lines/position vs. the 4 it had previously been given.

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