I was once told that although obtaining a degree is a step in the right direction, a piece of paper indicating what you studied in college doesn’t mean as much without proof of experience within the field you wish to enter. That’s where internships come in, and you’ve probably been offered advice regarding them since you stepped foot on campus. I sure did.
As a senior now with a couple of internships under my belt and two more starting this semester, I figured it was time to share some of my own insights and advice about something so valuable and possibly nerve-wrecking for students.
When it comes to internships, the biggest thing to keep in mind is that it’s an opportunity, not a guarantee.
What I mean by that is internships are an opportunity to get your hands dirty in your field rather than just learning about it in a classroom setting. If you’re anything like me, then you learn better by actually doing something rather than just hearing about it or seeing it. Internships are helpful in that regard.
It’s an opportunity to be a freshman again. The idea of that might scare some people, but the truth is, being a freshman means you’re allowed to make mistakes, you’re allowed to ask any and all sorts of questions, and you’re allowed to be the worst at something while you learn to get better at it. So take advantage of being the newbie in your field and learn from your mistakes, remain curious, and be bad at it on your way to becoming good.
It’s an opportunity to test the waters and see if you truly want to work in your field after graduation, or if it sounds better on paper. As a political science minor, I thought I wanted to work within the field, possibly doing public relations for politicians or campaign work for candidates. I landed an internship that allowed me to do both, and although it sounded like a sweet gig at first, I quickly learned that it wasn’t for me.
It’s an opportunity to put yourself out there within your field and make connections, learn from seasoned mentors, and prove your worth, whether it be to yourself or others. One of the best things that have come out of any of my internships are the lifetime connections I made, the knowledge I gained from being around experienced workers within my field, and the ability to prove to myself that I not only belong in my chosen field, but that I’m capable of succeeding in it.
Internships are not, however, a guarantee.
A common misconception about internships is that you will receive a job offer at the end of it. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
Most of the time, if you were a good intern, not receiving that offer to permanently stay has nothing to do with you and more to do with the company’s inability to hire someone new due to an already full payroll.
Other times, you might have just been too young to have been offered a position within the company. I interned for a company my junior year of college and I definitely would not have been able to accept any full-time job offers that came my way due to the fact that I was still a full-time college student.
Regardless of whether or not you will land a job at the place you intern at, give it your all. Show them that if they do choose to hire you at the end of your internship, that you will be a great addition to the team. If you don’t receive a job offer, then at least you showed them that you’re someone that they should stay connected with and possibly refer for a position at another company.