Advantages of Completing an Internship

graduate just got an internship

What is an Internship?

An internship is an opportunity offered by an employer to students or undergraduates to work for a specified period of time varying from one week to twelve months. They generally include full-time, on-the-job experience where you actually get hands-on training in an industry that is related to your field of study. Getting direct exposure to many of the skills and real-life work experience sought after by employers will greatly enhance your chances of getting your dream job when you graduate. It will also make you a more attractive and marketable candidate because you will require less training and will be assumed to be able to handle more job responsibilities.

Probably the biggest benefit of completing an internship is that it provides the unique opportunity to gain some valuable work experience within a specific industry that relates to your actual field of study.

Why complete an internship program?

Internships really are a win-win situation. Going to college and earning a degree is definitely the first step in landing the job of your dreams. However, without practical work experience, you’ll find that few employers are going to want to hire entry-level candidates without any real world experience. Internships are the perfect way to get practical experience in your chosen field of study, and working an internship makes you appear like a serious candidate for any job you apply for.

From the perspective of an employer, spending time interning for a company or several companies in your chosen career field makes you a more attractive candidate. It demonstrates that you have a strong work ethic, are dedicated to your career and most importantly, have relevant hands-on experience. Furthermore, employers increasingly want to see experience in the new college grads they hire.

In fact, staggering 95 percent of employers said candidate experience is a key factor in hiring decisions, according to an annual survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). Completing an internship will give you a clear edge and help you stand out from people who are competing for the same job as you.

Types of Internship Programs

Internships are more than just showing up to a cubicled office every day with cups of coffee for all the powers-that-be in the organization. Just as there are many types of organizations and companies, there are as many different types of internships.

Depending on the needs of the organization and its culture, you’ll find several takes on the word internship.

Paid vs. Unpaid

Some internships offer interns pay for their time and work. These types of internships are not incredibly common, but they are out there. Unpaid internships are just as valuable as paid internships, but they aren’t funded by grants or a specific line item in a department’s budget. You might also be paid with in-kind support, such as food and shelter, in some internships, such as those you might do where you live in the location where you work. This might be the case with an overseas internship with a nonprofit organization.

College Credit

Some internships will provide you with college credit. This is more a perk of an internship than a particular type of one. Read the fine print of the internship posting to see if you can get credit for a college class or two by completing the internship. Be sure your college will accept the internship with the organization you want to intern with as credit.

These types of internships may also exist in cooperation with your college department as a mutually beneficial work agreement. You work and get credit for the hours you spend on the job, and the organization gets your help completing its projects. You may even be paid for that work.

Advantages of Completing an Internship

Here are some advantages of completing at least one internship during your time in university.

You get to determine your dream job or career.

If you are still figuring out who you are and what you want in life, you might discover by interning in your chosen career field that it’s not what you originally anticipated, and decide you want to pursue a different line of work. If you realize that you don’t like the work after you complete your internship, you will have saved yourself a lot of hassle and aggravation by eliminating that field from your list.

On the other hand, you may find that you like the field, but you may not like the specific position in which you worked. For example, let’s say you’re a digital marketing major and you complete an internship in search engine marketing. You find out that you don’t like it.

Next, you do an internship in social media marketing and find out that its a perfect fit for your personality and skills, and you can beef up your studies in that field.  Doing an internship has provided the opportunity for you to zero in on the field that is a perfect match for your strengths and attributes. Better still, it allows you to figure all this out before you graduate and are stuck in a field that you find out that you don’t like.  

It’s also possible that you observe someone on staff whose job you definitely do not want to have. Crossing off particular industries and job titles from those you don’t want to work in or have helps you focus your job search.

Convert academic knowledge into real world experience.

Most employers don’t consider academic knowledge as practical enough for a continuously changing world. An internship gives you the interpersonal skills required to work with others, and provides the opportunity to apply your knowledge to the real world and develop the skills required to work in your industry. If you are able to get an internship that is relevant to your course of study, working on real projects will enable you to develop the skills needed to work in your industry.

You can interview current employees.

As an intern, you have access to people whose job title you might want someday. Ask if you can interview them to learn more about their positions. This access to someone with a position you are interested in can help you learn about the positive and negative aspects of the job in a way that just reading a job description on a position posting can never do.

A short, 20-minute interview that focuses on the questions you to which you want want to know the answer can make the entire internship worth your while. You’ll likely get information you wouldn’t otherwise be able to find about the job.

You might find a paid internship.

Not all internships are done on a volunteer basis. It’s possible that you might receive pay for your hard work. It might be a fixed payment that is to last the entirety of the internship, or you might earn an hourly wage. Whatever it is, those that do pay can yield quite decent salaires.

Paid internships make it more feasible for you to focus your time and efforts on doing a good job at the internship and impressing your colleagues and less on having to work another job after your internship is finished for the day just to make ends meet.

Improve your soft skills.

Even if you don’t look for or get a job in the field of the internship you complete, you’ll acquire a great chunk of transferable skills to take to the market for permanent jobs. You’ll interact with people on a professional level in a way that you wouldn’t be able to do in the classroom. This will increase your confidence and allow you to sharpen your communication, leadership, problem-solving, teamwork and other highly valuable soft skills. Not only will this increase your value, it will give you an edge when competing with other candidates for a specific position.

You get relevant, real-world experience.

Working as an intern provides the opportunity to get some hands-on experience in a professional environment. When it is time to apply for a job, your resume will stand out from a pool of similarly qualified candidates simply because you have some real-world experience in a relevant field. This makes you a more attractive candidate. You’ll have demonstrated a commitment to learning more about the position or the industry and that you’re serious about working. Don’t leave interning until your final year of study because the more internships you complete, the more complete your résumé will become and the more attractive you will look to prospective employers. Employers will want to hire you because you have more experience than someone who has never worked in the field at all.

You make valuable connections.

Internships provide the opportunity to engage with professionals who are actually working in your industry, and who can be vital in helping you help you find a job after you graduate. These contacts can also enhance your LinkedIn profile with professional recommendations and endorsements. These references will be invaluable when you are looking for a full-time job, so make sure you ask for them.

Aim to make a positive impression on someone with your willingness to work hard, learn, and with your knowledge, and you’ll find people who can give you a leg up on your job search. Likewise, you may meet other interns and current employees with whom you’ll become friends and business acquaintances for life. These types of connections are invaluable.

You Start Building Your Personal Brand

An internship is an excellent way to start building your personal brand. Taking the time to establish your brand will help you distinguish yourself from the competition, providing you with job and contact opportunities, along with recognition in your chosen field.

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