College students are planning for the future—hopefully, anyway!—but even high schoolers generally have a few potential careers in mind. Student internships are a great way to get a taste of what a particular job or industry is really like before you make a commitment.
Why? Unlike reading a text or listening to a lecture, spending time in an office or other workplace offers hands-on experience and the ability to learn from current employees.
The country is full of successful students with high GPAs, honor society memberships, and long lists of extracurricular activities. But one thing that students often overlook during their educational paths is the importance of completing an internship, even if it is just for the summer or one semester.
Some college majors require internships in order to graduate—for example, education and most medical studies—but they’re optional for others. Even if you don’t have to be an intern to earn your degree or diploma, you might want to consider doing it anyway. In some cases, you might earn course credit for your efforts and some internships are paid rather than unpaid. (You might not bring home hefty paychecks, but something is better than nothing!)
According to Fox News, a recent study by Millennial Branding and StudentAdvisor.com found that while 85% of students feel that internships are important to their future careers, less than half of the students surveyed had actually completed one or more internships.
Millennial Branding’s Dan Schawbel claims that this lack of student interns is not because opportunities aren’t available, but because teachers and career advisors typically do not recommend internships until students are already juniors, when it may possibly be too late.
Schawbel also points out that there’s no rule declaring a student’s first internship must be complex or overly impressive. “You can work for your parents, you can work for your school. It’s very general work if you think about it,” he told the media.
Internships offer more than the ability to get your feet wet. If you’re still in high school, listing an internship on your college application (or detailing your experiences in your college application essay) just may help you get into your dream school. And if you’re already in college, there are plenty of perks for you, too.
Consider the following advantages of being an intern:
Employers often hire their interns for full-time jobs after graduation—The National Association of Colleges and Employers reports that 60% of paid interns from the class of 2012 also got job offers.
These are just a few of the many benefits of interning. At worst, you might figure out that your “dream job” really isn’t for you or realize that a particular company or firm doesn’t mesh with your values and beliefs.
If you’ve made the decision to go for it, there’s one rule to remember—the sooner you start looking for internships, the better. Just like “real jobs,” some are highly competitive with many more talented, worthy applicants than available positions.
Consult your college or high school’s career services or guidance office for advice about local internships, and don’t be afraid to ask professors, friends, family, and even your parents or neighbors. You can also search career sites like Monster and CareerBuilder as well as the StateUniversity.com Job Board.
If an interview is set up, remember to treat it just as you would any other important job interview. Bring a copy of your resume and practice discussing your strengths and weaknesses, your college major, and why you feel you’d benefit if offered the position.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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