The obvious benefit of attending college is an advanced degree and credentials that will give you an edge in your chosen career field. However, the path to obtaining this certification is filled with opportunities that may prove even more valuable than the degree itself. One of the most enriching experiences of college may be the internship opportunities that students are privy to. Through these experiential learning models, students are given an opportunity to get a foot in a door that would otherwise remain closed to them.
Why Are Internships Important?
An internship is designed to give students a comprehensive learning experience and insight that will enable them to narrow down career choices and make determinations as to which direction to take their training. Internships are vital to making any graduate more competitive on the job market. In fact, CNN featured a report in which they quoted a director of career services at a New York college as saying, “internships have become key in today’s economy. Graduating students with paid or unpaid internships on their résumé have a much better chance at landing a full-time position upon graduation”.
Your Internship Can Count Toward Your Degree and Help You Make a Career Decision
The hours garnered through these internships will also provide necessary credits for a variety of degree programs matriculated. For instance, an aspiring social worker may have an opportunity to work one semester in a macro-practice setting, such as for a large organization preparing for an annual fundraiser; the next semester may be spent working alongside a therapist on an inpatient hospital unit. Through these two diverse experiences, social work students are better positioned to make the decision whether to get into macro-practice settings or if they are more adept at clinical experiences, such as on the hospital unit.
Make the Most of Networking Opportunities
A hidden jewel or the internship is the networking that is fostered. There are people in classes, perhaps sitting next to you, that may be in a position to collaborate or even offer fellow students something further down the career path. The professors and instructors of advanced courses often have positions and connections off-campus that could serve motivated students with initiative later on.
The folks that you are engaged with during your internship studies may be in a position to you at the end of the internship; this happens frequently for the students that make a good impression on these prospective employers during the school internship. At the very least, many of the associates met through the internship may turn out to be colleagues in the field, so nurturing positive working collaborations with them during an internship is a wise move.
Make it a Job
While some internships do not offer pay for students, others will often pay the student a stipend to help with the cost of gas or other incidental expenses. It is not uncommon for students to not receive pay so do not let an exciting opportunity pass you by because of this. Look at aspects that will cause the least amount of hardship during the experience, such as geographic distance to the job-site, any special tools or equipment needed, and any hidden benefits that could be factored in.
For example, an internship at a newspaper office for someone in journalism may not pay but perhaps the team permits the student to work from home on articles for a period of time during the work week. This would significantly appeal to certain students, as well as cut down on out-of-pocket expenses in terms of driving to the office each day.
There are invaluable gains from the internship experience, and the people met may change the course of one’s career path later. Remember to keep an open mind when assessing opportunities, and be sure to take advantage of every chance to learn something new and build your network when you land the internship.
About the Author:
William Chan is a recent graduate with a degree in Business Administration. He is currently an intern at a local consulting firm in San Diego and also enjoys breaking out his ATV along the rocky hills of California during his spare time.