I’ve been writing about working part-time jobs while in grad school, and I wanted to expand on the topic of internships. Many students ask a number of questions about internships: “How do I find them?” “How do I apply?” “What’s the best kind of internship?” “Should I settle for an unpaid internship or hold out for a paid one?” The question I hope to answer today is “Should I look for an internship related to my field, and why?” Deciding to apply to internships can be a big decision, but I think my tips here can help you realize why internships are great opportunities to become a better professional.
First, let’s define internships. Internships are basically lower-level positions in companies that are created to provide real-world experience for interns and inexpensive labor for employers. Internships can be paid or unpaid and can last anywhere from six weeks to six months. They could be longer or shorter, depending on what the employer need from interns. Internships can also be competitive; companies may only hire a portion of the interns as employees. For more information about internships, visit About.com’s Internship pages.
So, why should you work as an intern?
1. Graduate school requirements.
Some schools actually require that grad students (and sometimes undergrads) spend a semester as an intern for companies that have relationships with the school. Faculty and staff in many departments are great at networking, they have been in the field for a number of years, and they probably know plenty of professionals who may be looking for interns or know of others who need interns. Some departments even help pair you with an internship for one of their companies. These internships would be a good choice because you will be able to network easily and gain experience while earning credit hours.
2. Job requirements.
Jacquelyn Smith, a writer for Forbes, discusses that “internships truly have become the ‘new interview’ in the job search process” in her article about internships. Some companies won’t even hire employees unless they have experience in internships. For instance, read this article from last year about how internships (or more experience, in general) have become the new requirement for hiring employees. It’s understandable that you might want to focus more on your schoolwork and get good grades, but according to these articles, employers are looking for people who have already experienced a bit of the real world. Real world experience not only makes your transition into your chosen career easier, but it also shows potential employers that you’re ready for real world work.
3. Advantages to your career.
According to Beth Braccio Hering from CareerBuilder.com, internships provide a number of benefits to your resume. For instance, networking is important in every career; you might be able to meet and study under a few notable professors, but being able to work with and learn from field professionals and meet other professionals is invaluable. Also, getting a taste of the real world is important to do to learn more about your chosen profession and industry. Internships allow you to find out if what you want to do the rest of your life is still a good fit for you, and they help you learn the dos and don’ts of real-world employment.
When students hear the word internship, they tend to shy away because it often comes with the word unpaid. You shouldn’t necessarily avoid unpaid internships because you gain invaluable learning experiences and networking that could later land you a career. The relatively small amount of time needed for the internship each week is well worth it.
Internships exist so you can learn about your field and gain experience, so do your best in researching them, applying for them, and soaking up every bit of knowledge that you can in this journey. Do you have an internship now, or have you had an internship? Are you looking to start applying for internships soon? Share your experiences in the comment section below and how they have helped (or will help) you in your career.