Lauren Berger bills herself as the Intern Queen, and her book All Work, No Pay: Finding an Internship, BuildingYour Resume, Making Connections, and Gaining Job Experience is a practical guide to how and why to get an internship. In her experience, only about 20 percent of students pursue internships in and right after college. Here are the five benefits she attributes to internships, and why you should pursue on if you’re a student.
- You get a hands-on education. College is great for learning principles of your chosen career, but by definition, it can’t teach you how to do the job. (The exception is vocational training, which is about hands-on skills and buy the way, does almost always require an internship.) You learn in two ways when you work at a company: you get to perform the tasks you’ll be doing on the job, and you get to observe seasoned professionals doing their jobs. This is the one time in your career when these professionals will consider it part of their job to teach you; once you’re hired as a worker, you’ll be expected to hit the ground running. Take advantage of the opportunity to learn while you can.
- You have the opportunity to network and meet people in the industry who can be helpful throughout your career. Of course, that means you have to be memorable (for the right reasons.) People will remember how competent you were, how cheerful and energetic you were, and how reliable you were. Fall down in any of these areas, and you may have hurt your chances in the entire industry, let alone the company where you worked. Show up, do good and make friends.
- You have the chance to add real substance to your resume. Most student resumes list experience that builds character, but not often skills. If your resume experience consists mostly of jobs waiting tables or working in retail, your internship is a way to add real skills and projects. Employers think of internships as a way to prove you’re willing to invest in your own career, writes Berger.
- Internships add professional references to your resume. This is another reason to do a great job, no matter how menial the tasks you are given. If your manager or the company owner is admired in the industry, her word will mean a lot to your future employers. The more people you work for and with in the company, the more people will recognize your name when it comes up in the future. It’s a great reason to volunteer for as many projects and teams as you can.
- Pursuit or Elimination of the job you’re doing as a career goal. Berger is absolutely correct when she says that you learn as much from jobs you don’t like or succeed in as you do the jobs you love. Knowing what you do well and enjoy is an important part of determining your career path. Berger writes, “No matter what the outcome, you will leave an internship more informed than when you walked in.”
Berger says that she sees more internships available because companies laid off so many workers during the recession. Is that your experience? Do you have an internship this summer? Email me or comment if you do, or if you have a great story about a past internship.