Maybe you are still in school and entering into your junior year, or perhaps you just graduated- either way internships are something you are starting to consider.
Most colleges will recommend, or even require, that you complete at least one internship prior to graduating. Some tend to encourage their students to do more than one internship, arguing that more is better. And I tend to agree with them.
During my time at college, I only completed one summer internship. The rest of my summers were spent working a college student appropriate jobs to try to earn a little extra cash. To me, summers were still a privilege and freedom I wanted to take full advantage of. It was only a few years after graduating that I realized I had wasted perfectly good summer months making a few hundred dollars when I could have been testing the waters of my future career.
Internships are worthy of your time. They allow most undergrads and new graduates the opportunity to commit to a few months at a time, removing the pressure that agreeing to a new job can present. They are also significantly easier to obtain, and often only require 20-25 hours a week. You can complete multiple internships at a time depending on their hour and day requirements, which is an added bonus when it comes down to the most important purpose of an internship: learning.
Internships are better than a summer job. Yes, I know, sometimes that money feels more important, but working as a lifeguard for $7.50 an hour won’t help you in the long run unless you plan on making that your future career. Interning allows you to test out different job categories, locations, and, well, jobs. You can assist a Public Information Officer as they talk to the media. You can help in the drafting of a speech for a broadcaster. You can learn the inner workings of a newsroom as you are on standby for their needs. You can help put together a national conference without the pressure to attend. Internships allow you oftentimes to try out many different tasks and placements within one company, helping to better hone your interests.
They help you figure out what you like and what you don’t. Are you an all-day-desk-sitter? Do you feel energized by meetings or exhausted by the third one? Do you enjoy traveling for work? Are you comfortable standing in front of a room full of strangers? You can test all of these environments, and cross off your future job based on the feedback you receive. In the long run, this will help to better direct you when it is time to start searching. If you don’t like talking to a room full of strangers, you probably shouldn’t be a teacher, or a public speaker, or run for President. If you don’t like being on the move all day every day, you probably shouldn’t be a reporter or a photographer. Not a fan of cubicles? Look into working for the National Parks or becoming a flight attendant.
Long story short, internships look way better on your resume. They often have a better ring to them then Ice Cream Parlor Scooper, and you will have a longer list of skills to add after completing an internship. Your resume will thank you when you start applying for your first (or second) job. Those will be exceedingly more applicable during your interview, and they might even be the reason you get the interview.
Have you always dreamed of working for Disney? Or NASA? Or National Geographic? The chances of you landing a job fresh out of school (or even after a few years on the job) are pretty rare when it comes to one of these highly competitive companies. But interning for them? That is actually a way more likely scenario. Oftentimes this work won’t be paid, but it is a foot in the door and an introduction to future contacts.
Which brings me to my final point; internships are the mecca for networking. You will meet a variety of people during the course of your internship as you are passed around the office or follow your superior around. Companies offer internships as an opportunity to learn and to grow into the industry. So maybe you spend three months as a fresh graduate living at home and working for zero pay- but maybe that afternoon water cooler conversation turns into a future reference that ends up landing you the job you always dreamed of and a pretty paycheck to match.
At the end of the day, landing a job is hard work. It’s exceptionally hard to land a well-paying job without a little bit of networking. Internships allow you to grow the list of contacts that may be your future referral when it’s time to start the job hunt.