This summer I have participated in my first internship. I guess it could be more appropriately described as being part of a summer research program, but it serves the same function. I was pretty excited as this is my first professional job other than a teacher’s assistant position, which I’m not sure even counts. This gives me a perfect opportunity to discuss some of the benefits of having an internship while your in college. After thinking about it, I’d have to say that they fall into two categories: gaining personal knowledge and abilities and making yourself more marketable for jobs after college.
It seems that one of the biggest benefits of an internship is that you get some hands on real experience that you can’t obtain by reading books or taking notes. You can learn new skills and abilities and develop the ones you already have. Probably most important of all, as you get this experience you can see if you would really like working in that industry. I am finding more and more people who end up majoring in one subject and end up working in another. They may have enjoyed the subject but they really didn’t like the type of work that went with it.
The other major advantage is enhancing your ability to find a quality job that you will enjoy after college. I would say its fairly obvious that an employer, all else being equal, would take someone with experience over someone without any. The person that had the internship would need less training and the employer could be more confident that the person was committed to that field and had good abilities. Its safe to assume that its rare for someone who is the opposite to get a good internship without some connections. The position will also afford you the opportunity to make important contacts in your field. This can be great when trying to network for a job or needing someone to vouch or possibly write a letter of recommendation for you.
And besides, it will look much better that you participated in one than if you worked at the supermarket or as a pizza driver. There is also the possibility that it could lead directly to a full time job. If the company is impressed they might offer you a position once you are finished with school.
I guess there are some negatives too. One of the most important is the opportunity cost. Some people may have a business that is starting to become successful or some other opportunity that they might not want to neglect. And the issue of pay is also a concern. Some positions may not pay much or any at all which would cause you to take out even more student loans to deal with it.
I guess I am lucky in that my position is paying more than I would have received had I worked most of the summer full time. I believe I would have taken it even if it wasn’t. I have changed my major once and contemplated changes many, many other times. Although I enjoy the subject area, I am not 100% sure that I would want to pursue a career in that area. And besides, I need a few more things to put on my otherwise fairly sparse resume. That should about sum up my ramblings. I think it will be interesting to look back at this article in a year or three and see if I still have the same opinions about the benefits on completing an internship.