You’ve heard the advice a bazillion times.
Get experience before you finish school and you’ll have a better shot at getting hired when you graduate. Everyone makes it sound so easy…as if your schedule wasn’t already packed with exams and studying.
Here’s the thing:
Internships are a stepping stone that can launch your entire career. Sound too good to be true? It’s not. Formers interns report higher rates of employment and higher salaries than recent graduates who didn’t complete an internship.
But you know what else? Internships can offer you a ton of advantages when it comes to your future work (and personal life).
Let’s look at four reasons why you should do an internship.
#1 You’ll Discover What Things Are Really Like
To begin with, college internships let you see what it’s really like in the trenches. You get the opportunity to experience the reality of working in a particular role, or what it looks like to work for a specific company.
Why should you care? Believe it or not, your dream job isn’t always what it seems. I’ve been there myself. An internship lets you test out your dreams before you’re 3-years-deep into a career you absolutely hate.
If you find yourself on a career path you despise, you have to start all over again. This might not seem like a big deal. However, you might realize you can’t stand to work another minute at your stupid job at a time in your life when you want to focus on other things. Like your personal life. Or earning a higher income.
Without interning, you won’t really know what your vision looks like until you accept the position. Then you’re kinda stuck until you figure a way out.
#2 You Can Break Into Ultra-Competitive Industries
Want to break into an industry with fierce competition? You’ll need experience. There’s no other way around it unless you have some powerful contacts.
Internships lead to the chance to build an incredible network, spice up your resume, and learn the realities of your potential career path. These are all golden opportunities. You’ll be able to beef up your resume with your accomplishments, new job, and technical skills, giving you job experience that employers are seeking out today.
But let’s back up a little bit. Why does networking matter so much?
You often hear that finding a job is about who you know. This is often portrayed in a negative light; people sometimes look down on a candidate who landed a job based on their connections. But there’s more to the story than what it seems.
Networking doesn’t have to be sleazy.
It’s simply about having contacts in the industry who know the type of work you’re capable of producing. These are people who can trust you. These types of referrals can get you far, so stay in touch with your industry network! It’s easier than ever keep contact with these connections online, via email or a social network like LinkedIn.
#3 You’ll Learn How to Handle Situations
When you work as an intern, you get a glimpse into “the real world” of professional environments.
You see, there are many different departments within an organization or company. You learn how each of these departments interact with each other. Ultimately, you see how your job role affects other departments. You’ll learn more about how your work benefits your future employers–which helps you sell yourself as the perfect candidate–and learn how to climb the ladder to reach your end-goal.
You also gain experience working under pressure. Yes, you’re learning this in college, but it’s a lot different at your job. You get to make decisions and show your boss what you’re truly capable of.
But there’s one small catch. You might also get a first-hand glimpse into office politics. While you hope to avoid workplace drama, it’s inevitable sometimes. As much as it sucks, you want to learn how to handle these situations like a pro (so you can avoid them in the future).
#4 It Can Lead to a Full-Time Offer
While there’s no guarantee, you might get hired on as a full-time employee after your internship is finished.
I’ve seen it happen over and over again with my peers. Many companies will hire from their intern pools. It’s just easier that way because they’ve already devoted their time and energy into training you. Hiring for a job is a long process and these positions need to be filled!
Plus, once employers know how amazing your work is and can see with their own eyes how much value you add to their team, they won’t ever want you to leave.
So When Should You Start Looking?
If you’re looking for a summer internship, February is the best month to apply. It doesn’t hurt to start searching for what’s out there in the meantime. That gives you time to work on your resume and portfolio too.
But I’m going to let you in on a secret. Another option is applying for a fall or spring internship: there’s far less competition.
This is especially important if your field is in a hyper-competitive industry. For instance, I have a friend who attends one of the best schools in this country. She couldn’t find a summer internship, even though she applied to dozens. What did she do? Even though she felt discouraged, she kept searching over the summer.
By July, she landed the fall internship of her dreams.
Some programs require an internship before you can graduate. Other programs don’t make it mandatory but will offer credits toward your degree. If it’s not required, the choice is yours…but I think it’s worth it.