Sophocles said, “One must learn by doing.” In the world of college work experience, internships can serve as wonderful learning experiences, preparing students for their first real job after graduation.
According to an Internships.com survey in 2012, 69 percent of companies who employ 100 or more people offered full-time jobs to their interns in 2012. It’s becoming clear that the initial interview for a job begins with an internship program, which can make getting a job a little easier for you. And there is more good news, Forbes reports that companies are continuing to add more internship positions for students.
Here’s just a few of benefits of completing an internship while in college:
- A chance to expand your resume with real work experience. A graduating college student is often challenged with a resume containing very little work experience. Rather than just highlighting courses they took in their major on their resume, students whove’ completed an internship can add real-world work experience, giving them a definite edge.
- Network and make contacts. An internship provides wonderful opportunities for making contacts inside a company that might be able to offer you a job when you graduate. Make friends with your co-workers, offer to help them whenever you can and talk to them about their career experiences and their outside contacts – keeping in mind that they may be able to help you with your job search after graduation. Be aware of key decision-makers at the company that you can impress with your work and work ethic, your enthusiasm, and your collaborative team spirit. They may be able to influence decisions to hire you upon graduation.
- Positive job references. Many students do not realize how important references are in the job search process. A fine-tuned resume may lead to an initial interview and if that goes well a second or third interview. If the company decides to make you an offer, there is one more step – checking references. A few companies, especially state organizations, will request reference letters. Most companies ask for a list of references with names, email addresses, and phone numbers. You NEED to have good references … and not just professors. A reference you have worked with or for at an internship is golden. Remember to always ASK a person if he or she will be a reference for you before you give out contact information to a potential employer.
- Learn new skills and build your experience. While you are completing an internship you will be exposed to an additional set of skills and experiences that serve as valuable on-the-job training. You will see real creative problem solving in action, with real customers and co-workers. You may learn the processes used within the organization to run the business and manage customer relationships, new software that is used to organize and manage company data, or be asked to develop something completely new to the company. Working with customers is the ultimate understanding of a business. Make sure you complete all of your assignments to the very best of your ability and when you have time, volunteer to help on other projects. Gather up as much experience and exposure to the work environment as you can. This experience also gives you something real to talk about in an interview.
- Apply classroom knowledge. It will be an exciting day when you are asked to complete a project or task that you know exactly how to complete because you studied and completed a class assignment on that same concept. Or, you may be asked to analyze and evaluate a situation, and while the situation is different, the process you need to perform is one that you studied. You will also find that your supervisor and co-workers use a vocabulary specific to the work they are doing and that you learned this vocabulary in your studies. All of these cases of applied knowledge will get you ahead of others graduating without internship experience.
- Explore career interests, occupations, and environments. Now that you will be working with people whose careers are already in process, you have the special opportunity to talk to them about their careers and interests. Did they graduate from college, and what was their major? How did they get into this line of work? What is their favorite or least favorite part of their job? Get to know your co-workers and ask gentle questions at first. You need to build their trust in you before people will share more of their own story. You may learn about multiple career paths within your major and be able to explore them in conversation to enable you to make a more informed decision about your own career path. You may find you love parts of your internship and dislike other parts. Either way it is good information to learn early on before your official career takes off with your first job.
Did you participate in an internship this summer or are you planning to join one this year? Share your internship experiences in the comments section below.