Internships – Why They Are Essential

Perhaps by now you have read about what internships are and you have a sense that you need to do one. But do you really know why?

What are you looking to get out of that internship that you seek?

It may depend on the skill set that you already possess, or it could be determined by the field that you are pursuing. In my later posts we will look at finding high quality internships and how to determine if they will be a good fit. For now, I’d like to focus on some of the areas where you stand to benefit from internships so that you can be aware of them going into your internship.

It can lead to full-time employment:

I like to call the internship, “An extended interview.”

Typically, employers look to hire their interns first. In fact, the National Association of Colleges and Employer’s (NACE) executive director Marilyn Mackes stated in the 2009 Job Outlook:

“Our studies show that in a poor economy, employers do often look first to their own interns…”

You have built a reputation and your employer has been able to see samplings of your work, communication style, and problem solving skills. In addition, you have probably decided if the work environment and culture of the organization fit you. Make sure you are aware that your internship serves as an evaluation of your fit for the organization.

You learn about your field outside the textbook:

There will be “unwritten” aspects of your internship that don’t show up in any job description.

No matter what you learn in your university class room, the working world will present its own challenges to you. For instance, you may have to learn about how business is conducted in your field or simply how to work within a team of different personalities.

Experience in the job search process:

Simply by applying and interviewing for internships you are gaining needed experience.

It can be shocking when first applying for internships because there are many factors to consider. Some of the work you will do in applying for internships include:

  • Knowing the deadlines for each internship
  • Researching opportunities to make sure they are a fit
  • Targetting your resume and cover letter
  • Preparing for different types of interviews including phone screens, one-to-one, group, and panel interviews

This process can seem challenging; however like anything these are all learned skills. The effort that you put into building these skills now will pay off as you start looking for full-time work after you graduate.

You gain contacts:

According to research, the majority of jobs are gained through networking.

Some research points to the fact that roughly 80-90% of jobs are filled through networking. Therefore, when you are working at your internship there are opportunities beyond your department. Don’t be surprised if your co-worker or boss leaves for another organization or department. The impression that you leave with them may be the difference between a job offer or not.

Make it a point to connect with your co-workers – not only will it make your work more enjoyable but you will also learn more about your job and how things work within your organization.

Some strategies to reach out to your co-workers include:

  • Informational interviews
  • Attending company social gatherings
  • Making time for lunch or coffee with co-workers
  • Offering to help others

Career Exploration:

Internships will help you explore career fields.

Most likely you don’t know what you want to do for the next 30-40 years in terms of a concrete plan. In fact, most people will work many different careers in their lifetime. However, you can start to get a sense of the skills you want to use and the type of work you want to do through your internship.

I worked with one student who originally had wanted to work on camera for NBC news. After doing the on camera internship, she realized that the production aspect was more appealing than doing on camera work. Since she had worked closely with the production team, she was able to transfer into another internship and eventually land a full-time job that she loved.

In addition to these aspects, can you think of other benefits? Let me know in the comments section.


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