Benefits of taking on an internship when you’re in college

Category: Education

If you’re in college, you may be required to take on an internship (depending on your program of study) or you might have the option to take one. If you’ve thought about taking on an internship, but you’re not sure if it’s for you, consider some of the many benefits:

Choosing your career path

College is all about finding out who you are and what kind of career you want to have. You may have known since you were a young child that you wanted to work in a certain field, or you might still be trying to figure it out, and you have yet to even declare a major. Whether you have a pretty good idea of what you want to do or no idea at all, an internship can help give you a clear picture as to what it’s really like to work in a particular job field. It may reaffirm what you already knew all along you wanted to do, or as Nakia R. Barriteau points out, it might change your mind completely.

“Very often, students have an idea of the career they want to venture into,” said Barriteau, who is Internship Program Coordinator at Anne Arundel Community College. “However, after participating in an internship experience, the student may realize that the job is not as exciting as they thought it would be or the job is too demanding.”

Job experience

These days, graduating from college isn’t always enough—employers like to see that applicants have real-world job experience, particularly in the field for which they’re applying for. An internship can provide just that: relevant job industry that puts you one step ahead of the competition.

Unpaid vs. paid internships

Because internships are a learning experience that also provide college credit, they don’t always come with an hourly wage. However, you shouldn’t necessarily dismiss internships that are unpaid, as they could provide an equally rewarding experience as a paid internship—perhaps even more so.

“If the internship is well structured so that the intern can hone or learn new skills—and also grow his or her professional network—it is worth doing,” said Graciela Kenig, Director of Internships at DePaul University. “Some non-profits provide such experiences but can’t afford to pay a salary.”

The bottom line? Analyze each internship individually, whether it’s paid or unpaid, and don’t let that be part of the equation. Instead, focus on the important things: the company you’d be interning at, what your role would be, and the experience you’d get from it. 

Overlooked benefits

Gaining job experience and learning more about the industry you’re interested in might be some of the more obvious benefits of internships, but there are other, often overlooked advantages of internships that many students don’t consider. Networking is one huge benefit of internships that can potentially help students for years to come—whether it’s finding a job after graduation (many companies hire past interns), or finding one later on down the road.

“Internships provide students with the opportunity to make connections with industry professionals, affords them the chance to enhance their skill set, and helps them to get their foot in the door,” said Barriteau.

 

And as Kenig added, an internship can also provide you for the career world in general, which can be a huge advantage.

“Many also fail to realize how much they learn about themselves during an internship. If they are paying attention, they will see what they like or dislike about the organization’s culture—and how to be more selective when accepting another internship or job. Among other things, they learn to identify and articulate their strengths.”

Finding an internship

Your school is an excellent source for finding internships; you can check your college’s website, or visit the career services department to ask about upcoming internships that could be a good match for you. You can also meet with your advisor and ask for help on finding upcoming internships in your area. If you know there’s a particular company that you’d love to work at someday, check the career section their website, where they’ll usually list any upcoming internships.

 

And finally, don’t underestimate the power of networking when it comes to finding an internship—ask friends, family, professors, and so on.

Landing the internship

The job world is pretty competitive—and so are internships. Some internship positions are highly sought after, and there might only be a few slots available each semester.

 

If you don’t have one already, you’ll want to create your first resume. It might be lacking a bit if you haven’t had a job yet, but as an intern, companies will expect this. Instead, focus on your other strengths outside of job experience, and how they apply to the internship you want. List your education, any related training, skills, and special achievements. Be sure to also include letters of recommendation from some of your professors.

 

If you’ve never been on a job interview before, have a mock interview with a family member, or ask your college’s career services department for help. The feedback you receive can help you prepare for the real thing, and increase your chances at landing that internship.

Anything else you can do to stand out from the competition—in a good way, of course—can also potentially increase your chances at getting the internship you’re hoping for.

 

“Employers want to ensure that internship candidates are well-rounded individuals,” said Barriteau. Consequently, I always suggest that students maintain a good grade point average and participate in on-campus activities and community service projects that interest them. By doing so, students are enhancing their resumes while differentiating themselves from other internship candidates.”


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Nothing above is meant to provide financial, tax, or legal advice. You should meet with appropriate professionals for such services.

Tags: internships, jobs

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