Internships: Necessary or Nonsense?

If you’re a college student, it’s likely you’ve felt the inescapable pressure of finding an internship.

Your parents and grandparents found jobs without them, so why do you need one?  Our generation is expected to thrive in a time where unemployment rates are skyrocketing, technological advances are eliminating jobs by the thousands, and the price tag on a secondary education has reached an all time high.  It’s a tough time to make it in this world!

As discouraging as all the statistics are, the only thing we have the power to control is how we prepare for our future, which leads me to the topic of internships.  What is their purpose?  Are they beneficial?  Do you really need one?  Yes, you do.  Here’s why…

Unfortunately, a college degree no longer guarantees port-grad employment.  Although college facilitates personal and educational growth, and acts as a bridge between young and professional years, it sometimes lacks in opportunities to gain real world work experience.

Contrary to popular belief, the purpose of an internship is typically far greater than serving coffee or running mindless errands.  They can bulk up your resume, give you a first hand taste of the professional world, and fill in learning gaps college has neglected.  There are many different kinds of internships: paid or unpaid, casual or formal, and broad or specific work. It is your job to seek out the best fitting openings and solicit your strong suits.

Benefits

Participating in internships teaches you punctuality and time management, and gives you experience working with tools in the professional context (i.e. computer programs, banking processes, and general practices of your area of expertise).  It provides you with networking opportunities and shows future employers that you are responsible, motivated, and have a strong work ethic.

In a best-case scenario, an internship can turn into a full time job.  If your time spent doesn’t end with a job offer, that’s OK too.  Regardless, you will walk away with more to offer your next employer than you could have previously claimed.

Resume Bulking

It’s a hard pill to swallow, but there comes a time when listing babysitting on your resume will no longer suffice.  With unemployment rates reaching new heights, you need to show employers what makes you different from all the other jobless college grads.  Applicable work experience from internships is a stand out factor for employers and may help you get your foot in the door.

Paid vs. Unpaid

To our disdain, if a company can accumulate interns without monetarily compensating them, they probably will.  I know money is enticing, but unless you have financial hardship you should avoid making this a big factor in your decision making process.  The compensation you receive is no indicator of the knowledge you will gain from your involvement.  Instead, try to base your decision on the internships relevance to your future career pursuits.  You may find you were made for the profession, or feel dissuaded from it altogether.

Paid internship positions are often much more competitive as college graduates are sometimes in the candidate pool and employers can be more selective.  Paid internships may also require a larger time commitment or duration of work.  Conversely, unpaid internships may be more flexible with work hours and assignments.  Whether paid or unpaid, employers are investing time and money in training you to help them, which in turn benefits you as you learn, gain independence, take on more complex assignments, and possibly take on leadership roles.

Finding an Internship

When looking for internships, make sure the source is credible.  Your college campus’ Internship or Career Center is probably a good place to start your search.  You may discover interesting opportunities using internship hunting websites such as internmatch.com and internships.com, through major or minor advisors, or even friends and family that have professional connections.

But beware; some advertised internships falsely portray themselves.  Before making any commitments, it may be good to spend some time researching the company’s credentials or speaking with other interns from the same company.

Happy hunting!

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Heidi Meier

Heidi Meier

Heidi Meier is a junior at the University of California, Davis pursuing degrees in communication and psychology. At school, Heidi can be found participating in psychology experiments or lounging on the quad. Outside of school, she enjoys exploring new cities, adventuring with friends, and playing with her puppy, Pancake.
Heidi Meier

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