Only option for young job seekers

How do you get a job without experience? And how do you get experience without a job? For today's young workers, the answer is get an internship. More than half of this year's college graduates did just that at some point before earning their degrees, according to a survey just released by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Internships are nothing new. But as the employment picture for recent college graduates has grown more bleak, the number of young workers feeling the pressure to do internships has increased. More students getting early professional experience sounds like a great thing, but it also has its pitfalls.

About 90 percent of members of the college classes of 2006 and 2007 found employment within a year of graduating, according to a survey conducted this spring by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University. For the class of 2010, that figure dropped to just 56 percent. The jobs that are available for recent grads also pay about 10 percent less than those won by the class of 2006.

In this dismal climate, the class of 2011 and those following them have the feeling that, for future hirability, there's no option but to do a pre-graduation internship.