Internships are often viewed negatively by recent graduates due to negative stereotyping about interns - namely the belief that interns don’t do anything except make coffee and photocopies. While the tasks assigned to an intern may not be the most challenging or interesting, internships can provide value beyond the actual tasks an intern is assigned.
Because some internships don’t provide compensation, many people discount them as an activity not worth their time. The truth is, the value they provide is often worth more than the pay that you could get from a part-time summer job unrelated to your field of interest. Since they offer multiple ways to enhance skills in a specific job function, internships are a great way for graduates to break into a new career. Unlike working in an unrelated job for the summer, an internship will give you an opportunity to gain real working experience, and possibly get hired by the company with which you’re interning.
Internships are not limited to college students. Anyone seeking a career change will find that internships introduce them to a new career, help them to explore different skills, and prepare them for new experiences. For college students, summertime is an ideal opportunity to explore career interests while still in school but not actively involved with classroom and homework requirements.
Still not convinced? Here are 7 reasons internships are important.
#1 Experience a professional working environment
Obtaining real-world working experience is essential, especially if you’ve never been employed. When you intern in a new workplace, you’ll gain first-hand knowledge about how a professional environment works. Through interaction with co-workers and your supervisor, you’ll begin to ‘learn the ropes’ as they differ depending on the employer’s process methods. If you’re interning for a large company, you’ll learn how multiple departments work in relation to each other and how your career of choice impacts the overall goals and operations of the organization.
Even if your internship is unpaid, remember that you still must treat it like you’re employed. You’re giving your time for the opportunity to gain knowledge and skills. The company you work for is investing their time and energy into training you to work within the organization. During your time as an intern, your managers and supervisors will be monitoring your interaction and performance. Capitalize on these observations and ask for references before you leave. Sometimes, interns who show initiative and talent will be asked to stay on with the company in a paid role. Work towards getting the offer of paid employment.
#2 Receive Credits for College
During the regular school year, college students may be averse to taking on an internship due to heavy class schedules. During the summer – instead of using the time to play – take advantage of your smaller class load, or your break from classes, to engage in an internship. And, if even when summer internships don’t pay, they often offer college credits - reducing the number of college hours you need to complete your degree and allowing you to graduate sooner.
Most degree programs require students to take an internship to obtain the necessary skills to succeed in their chosen career. Check with your college institution to ensure that college credits are accepted for the internship that interests you.
# 3 Interns are potential candidates for a new hire
Getting hired by the company where you’re interning is probably the best, and most sought after, benefit of an internship. Whether the internship is paid or unpaid, it’s advantageous to do the job correctly and to the best of your ability. You’ll also want to fine tune your communication skills and style to create positive relationships with other employees. Managers and supervisors will be watching how you interact with others. Specifically, they’ll be monitoring your performance to judge how well you are able to:
- Work under pressure
- Take the lead on assigned projects
- Make decisions and complete goals
- Collaborate compromise to facilitate group decisions
These factors matter, and the more you show how well you can perform, the higher the chances are that company will bring you on as a paid employee. Think of your internship as your live, ongoing interview.
#4 Build your resume with hard and soft skills
For college students, internships are critical to future job search success. They provide the information you need to fill out your resume with relevant experience. When you’re adding internship information to your resume, dig deep into that experience and pull out the stellar information that sets you apart from other candidates. The only thing you don’t have to mention is if the internship was paid or unpaid—this is something the employer doesn’t need to know.
Of course, there is a point when you don’t need to list internships on your resume, and usually, that’s when you have sufficient years of experience that makes up for it. However, for new graduates or those switching into a completely new career, it’s recommended that you add your internships to your job history to show relevant job experience.
#5 Learn time management
Time management, and handling your workload, is another important skill you’ll learn as an intern. During your time as an intern, you’ll start understanding how to manage your time effectively to complete your internship duties so you can meet deadlines, participate in meetings, and do research.
Many people struggle with time management - having an internship experience is a great way to learn how to make the most of the time you have, especially if you’re working with tight deadlines.
#6 Make industry contacts
Networking is crucial to finding your desired job with the salary you seek. When you’re doing a summer internship, you’re also there to forge key business relationships. Networking is an essential part of the internship experience, especially if the company where you’re interning isn’t hiring, or you already have another company interested in hiring you. The business contacts you make as an intern can serve as sources for recommendations, testimonials, or references when you apply to another company in the same industry.
In today’s digital world, making industry contacts and keeping in contact is easier than ever before. Nearly everyone is online and most people have a LinkedIn profile. Connect with people in your industry through LinkedIn during your internship and be sure to maintain your connections once the internship is over. As a bonus, your LinkedIn contacts can send you referrals or job leads directly through the app, should they find something that matches your skills.
#7 Build and practice new skills
Gaining new skills is the best reason to pursue an internship. It’s necessary for anyone entering a new career to build the specific job skills required by their desired role and then spend the time necessary to perfect those skills and talents in order to successfully land a new position. All jobs require experience in certain skills, no matter the industry or position.
Another way to think of this internship benefit is trying a new career before committing to a full-time position. Say for example you’re leaving mechanical engineering to start a new job as a pharmacy technician. With an internship, you’ll be introduced to a new working environment, mixing medications, and filling patient orders, and if you don’t like it, you’ve not lost anything but a little time and gained a new skill.
Employers don’t create internships for the sake of the candidate. Of course, resume reviewing and interviews are used to find the best candidates for an open position. However, internships evaluate a person in action, in the same position, and help employers predict how an employee will fare in the workplace.
Moreover, some companies create what’s called an internship pool, meaning that they hire from the pool after they’ve witnessed potential from those groups, which makes the hiring process faster and easier.
If you’re ready to move into a new career, or you need those summer college credits, consider a summer internship.