Internships are essential. We’re not going to sugar coat it for you. You must get at least one internship under your belt if you want to be competitive in your job search.
The benefits of an internship
Internships and other short-term positions in your field give you on-the-job training and experience. They will help you both find and qualify for your dream job. The work it takes to get an internship is an investment in improving your employability. By doing internships, you can:
Get your foot in the door
It’s likely that one of your internships will lead to a full-time job offer after you graduate. Employers often recruit from their intern pools. If you make a good impression as an intern, your manager may make you an offer, or recommend you to another part of the company. Or if the position you seek is outside the company, they can serve as your reference.
Explore your professional interests
Internships are opportunities to test-drive different jobs and your field before committing full-time. Internships can give you a taste of various industries, roles, and work environments. This will help you determine what you want to do “when you grow up” (which even “seasoned” professionals are still trying to figure out, by the way).
For example, while doing an accounting internship you discover you love being a bean-counter but can’t stand being part of a large corporation. Or perhaps you are a marketing major and determine that you like being a product manager better than a market research analyst. Or maybe you realize you don’t like the career options within your major and need to change gears. Whatever your situation, you need to figure out what career is the best fit for you as soon as possible – and internships will help you do that.
Strengthen your resume
Employers want to see related professional experience on your resume. An internship in your field of interest will be more impressive to employers than a menial summer job you did just to make some money. You’ll be showing prospective employers that you care about your field. An internship also shows that you have the experience and skills to start making an impact on day one.
Gain experience in your field
An internship will show you how you can apply your studies. You’ll get real-world experience in your field and build your industry-specific expertise. It will also reveal gaps in your knowledge that can direct your future studies.
Get professional experience
Internships give you the opportunity to work in a professional environment. You will be exposed to different roles and areas within a business. Interacting with other professionals will grow your confidence and professional maturity. This will give you an opportunity to learn from mentors, ask questions, and take on responsibilities. Working in the industry will also familiarize you with business operations.
Develop transferable skills
A good internship is designed to help you learn and develop. Depending on the focus of your internship, you’ll also build marketable skills. This includes data analysis, public speaking, collaboration, project management, and leadership.
You will build your network as you work with your managers, co-workers, clients, and other professionals. These contacts can provide you with references for future jobs. They also can let you know about upcoming job opportunities in your field and serve as a mentor.
As you do good work in your internship and take time to network, you will build strong, positive connections (see “How to build your network”).
These are examples of the many ways an internship can help you professionally. Yet, these benefits depend on the effort you put into finding the right internship and getting the most out of it. Not all internships are created equal (see “Does it matter where I do my internship?”). And not all interns achieve the same things. Once you secure a great internship, you have only done half the work. Be sure to take initiative, ask questions, build relationships, and find opportunities to add value. Do this and you are sure to rock it!