An internship is an opportunity offered by an employer to prospective employees (also known as interns) to work for a specified period of time varying from one week to twelve weeks. It generally includes full-time, on-the-job experience where you actually get hands-on training in an industry that is related to your field of study.
Interns are typically students or undergraduates, and the program provides the unique opportunity to gain some valuable work experience within a specific industry that relates to your actual field of study.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here are some reasons to complete at least one internship during your time in college.
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 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.
When it is time to apply for a job, your resume will probably land on top of the pile simply because you completed a relevant internship. 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. Employers will want to hire you because you have more experience than someone who has never worked in the field at all.
You’ll meet people who can help you find a job or provide solid recommendations when you intern. 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.
An internship is an excellent way to start building your personal brand. Taking the time to establish your brand will help you separate yourself from the competition, providing you with job and contact opportunities, along with recognition in your field.