Degrees Can Help, But Internships Make the Difference
When I was in college, one concept that was constantly stressed to me was the importance of internships. My professors made it their mission to encourage us to connect the classroom to the real world. Through internships, we would gain practical experiences that encouraged intellectual growth and seeking out new knowledge. While your college may not stress internships as much as mine did, I can guarantee that they're worth your while. And you can often find opportunities that are virtual. As you consider interning during the academic year or this upcoming summer, keep in mind my five pieces of advice below.
- Why intern? If you still need convincing that an internship is for you, consider this: college students spend most, if not all, of their academic career learning more about their desired major or field. Internships are the connecting piece from the classroom to the real world, and give you the chance to apply your academic knowledge to an outside, relevant setting. Internships also give you the ability to make connections and build your toolbox of experiences that can only be strengthened later.
- Where do you see yourself? Take some time to think about what you want to do after college, whether it be to work in a specific field or join a certain company or organization. Then, start networking and seeking out positions well in advance of when you want to start your internship to find out about upcoming opportunities.
- Add value. When thinking about internships, don't just think about what you expect to gain. Also consider the many different ways that you can add value, by bringing in your knowledge, experience, and ideas from your past jobs, former experiences, and even classwork. The ability to add value to your internship workplace means you'll create a collaborative atmosphere that will help you learn more and grow at the same time.
- Be open to opportunities. Sometimes, and maybe most of the time, it's great to secure internships in fields directly related to what you're studying in college. This gives you the ability to see first-hand what your world may be like post-graduation. However, don't feel the need to only apply to internships directed related to your major. There's a great world of possibilities out there, and an internship in a different field can still teach you helpful skills and knowledge.
- Make connections: At your internship, you will likely meet people from all different paths, education levels, past job experiences, and more. Embrace that diversity and concentrate on networking, meeting new people outside of your department, and creating lasting relationships.
Whether you are just starting your internship search or have yet to begin, your internship is and will be whatever you make it. Have enough confidence to believe that wherever you intern, you will create meaningful experiences. Prepare well, work hard, and enjoy the opportunity.