Internships can be a confusing topic, especially when you’re just starting out in your career. What exactly is an internship, anyway? For many people, it’s a chance to gain real-world experience in their chosen field while still in school or just getting their foot in the door. And while they don’t always pay much (if at all), internships offer some major benefits you’ll want to consider. In this article, we’ll break down what an internship really is, clear up some common misconceptions about internships, and discuss the perks you can gain as an intern.
What Is an Internship? Defining This Important Career Step
An internship is essentially a job in your field of study that allows you to gain valuable hands-on work experience, develop career skills, and explore potential career paths while you’re still in school.
- Unlike part-time or summer jobs, internships are more directly connected to your studies and future career goals. They help ease your transition from student to professional.
- You work for an established company, non-profit, or government agency under the guidance of an experienced mentor.
- Most internships last around 3 months and take place over the summer or semester break. Some internships are part-time so you can work while attending classes.
- Internships can be paid or unpaid. Paid internships are becoming much more common, though you’ll likely earn less than a full-time role. The experience you gain is invaluable.
- As an intern, you’ll work on real projects and tasks like a regular employee. You may attend meetings, collaborate with teams, research solutions, write reports, build apps, analyze data, test products, and more.
- Ultimately, an internship gives you the in-demand skills employers want, builds your professional network, and helps you explore careers to find the best fit. It looks great on your resume too!
So in a nutshell, an internship is temporary on-the-job training that bridges the gap between school and your future career. It’s one of the most useful things you can do to boost your employability after graduation.
Why Do an Internship? The Benefits for Your Career
Doing an internship can provide many benefits as you start your career journey. An internship allows you to gain real-world experience, build your network, and figure out if a career field is right for you. Let’s explore why you should consider being an intern.
- Gain valuable experience. An internship lets you apply what you’ve learned in school to actual work projects and tasks. You’ll use industry-specific tools and software, shadow professionals, take on basic responsibilities, and start building hard and soft skills. This experience looks great on your resume when applying for future jobs.
- Test drive a career. By interning in a field you think you want to pursue, you can get firsthand exposure to the typical work activities, environment, and pace. You may discover unexpected aspects of the job duties that change your mind about that career path. Or you may fall in love with the field and be eager to continue after graduation.
- Beef up your network. An internship puts you in direct contact with professionals who can offer advice, act as mentors, or connect you with openings in their organizations. Make the most out of this networking opportunity by regularly seeking feedback and guidance from colleagues. Stay in touch with them after the internship as you build your professional network.
- Gain confidence and independence. Being immersed in a workplace setting, even temporarily, allows you to get comfortable communicating with colleagues at all levels. You’ll sharpen abilities like collaborating in teams, solving problems independently, and managing your time and projects. This growth in confidence and skills will serve you well in future career pursuits.
- Open doors to a full-time job. Employers often use internship programs as a pipeline for identifying promising talent to hire full-time after graduation. Distinguish yourself by being a valuable contributor during your internship, and you may receive a return offer to continue working there once you complete your degree.
Taking the initiative to pursue an internship and embracing all aspects of the experience will pay dividends for your future career success. You’ll enjoy a competitive edge over other applicants and have a clearer vision of your goals.
Frequently Asked Questions
What exactly is an internship?
Simply put, it is a work opportunity that is typically part-time and temporary, with a focus on on-the-job training and learning rather than just getting tasks done. Interns may be college students or recent graduates looking to gain relevant experience and explore career options before taking a full-time job.
How do I find an internship?
Start your search early, several months before you hope to start interning. Look on university career sites, job search boards, company websites, and LinkedIn. Attend career fairs and networking events. Talk to professors, academic advisors, friends and family – let people know you are looking! Applying for an internship works much the same way as applying for a regular job. You’ll likely need a resume and to interview.
Will I get paid as an intern?
Payment varies widely by industry and employer. Some internships offer an hourly wage or stipend, while others are unpaid. Be clear upfront on the compensation so you can plan accordingly. Unpaid internships are legal under the Fair Labor Standards Act if they meet certain criteria – namely that they provide training of educational benefit to the intern rather than displacing regular employees.
What will I be doing as an intern?
An intern may assist with administrative work, data entry, customer service, public relations, creative projects, analysis, quality assurance testing, event planning or a wide variety of tasks depending on the employer and industry. The focus should be on learning applicable skills and gaining exposure to that field, not just getting coffee or making copies. You may job shadow employees or complete special projects under the guidance of a supervisor.
Do internships lead to jobs?
Completing an internship, especially more than one, can significantly help your chances of securing a full-time job. Employers often use internships to evaluate potential talent for future hiring needs. Demonstrating strong performance as an intern is a great way to get your foot in the door with an organization or industry you’re interested in pursuing long-term.