Internships are a phenomenal way to gain experience and strengthen your resume which will exponentially help your chances of landing a full-time job post-graduation. However, no internship is the same and not all internships provide valuable, resume boosting experience.
The point of an internship
The main reason we do internships is so we can gain real-world experience, put school theory to practice, and learn if a particular company, job, or industry is right for us.
With an internship, not only are you building up your experiences, but you’re also learning about company culture and what a work atmosphere is like. Ultimately, though, the point of an internship is to get a job after graduation. An internship hones your skills, supercharges your resume, and makes you much more desirable as a candidate.
So, is all internship experience good?
The short answer is, no. The internship you take should resemble (even tangentially) what you are studying in school. Not only is this going to help you actually get the internship, but this also increases your chances of securing a job after graduation in your chosen field.
For example, if you are a marketing student, it does not make sense for you to take a finance internship. However, if the internship is within the marketing operations group (basically the finance team within the marketing group), then that internship would be great experience, even if it doesn’t tie 100% to what you want to do post-graduation.
Taking an internship in a non-related field can hurt your job prospects, especially if you take multiple non-related internships. The reason is, taking non-related internships makes it seem like you are either unfocused or unmotivated (you just took whatever you could get). Remember, when you present your resume, you want it to read as a story and all tie back to the job you want (ARTICLE: How to format and structure your resume).
Does it matter which company I intern with?
One of the most important things to understand about internships is that every internship, no matter which company it is with, is a valuable learning experience. With that said, as a GENERAL rule (not always), you should try to get an internship with the best-known company in your field. Getting an internship with a well-known company sends a strong signal to your future employer and makes you a more desirable candidate. It sounds silly, but it is 100% true.
However, you may only be able to secure an internship at a smaller company without much brand recognition. Don’t downplay that experience! It is still amazing experience that you should relish. There will be plenty of insights to be gained from the opportunity and valuable contacts. And the thing is, you can leverage any internship opportunity to your dream job (ARTICLE: How to leverage your small internship into a big opportunity).
How many internships should I do?
As many as you possibly can! Definitely take an internship between your sophomore/junior year and your junior/senior year. Additionally, try to get a part-time winter or fall internships during the school year. The first internship may be less than ideal and in a non-related field, but that is okay! It may take the second or third internship to really get what you want. However, in your search for the second or third internship, you can leverage your previous internships to “level-up” to a better company or position. The more internships you do that are focused on your major the better positioned you will be for full-time recruiting.
No internship is the same. Some internships may be part-time or full-time. Some may be with a gigantic company or a startup. The most important thing to keep in mind, is that you are learning and getting experience. Whatever the internship is, you should give your whole self to that opportunity…you never know where it is going to lead you.