The Value of Internships to Recent College Graduates


Internships are an extremely important addition to a college student’s resume-arsenal. An internship can be paid or unpaid and can be a great opportunity to develop industry specific skills, gain real world work experience, test-drive a chosen career path, establish professional network connections and allow a recent college graduate to gain an advantage over their peers by developing character and professional development.

University graduates have spent 4 years learning vast amounts of information across a variety of subjects. They have narrowed their interests to a specific area and been instructed by the top professionals of their field. A veteran college student has learned how to perform certain duties and what will be expected of them as young professionals. An internship allows that same student to put their knowledge into real world application. By spending time in the work environment a student is given the opportunity to develop some quality portfolio additions and participate in events that students without an internship have no access to. College students who are interested in finding a quality internship should evaluate their career goals, and find an internship that can help them achieve those goals. Not all internships are paid, or are with well-known companies, but one should consider the long-term benefits of smaller organizations. At a smaller firm the intern is usually responsible for more duties, but this is an opportunity to DO more. While searching for an internship, a college student should approach employers rather than wait for them to find you. Most organizations have many different prospects for a single internship, but you will have to prove your worth before and after you are given a position.

Completing an internship allows a college student to test drive their chosen career path. Most recent graduates have never actually worked in their field of interest. Internships allow a young professional to experience the everyday life in their future career. The subtle etiquette of a work environment is a big change from campus life and the more experience a person gains the more at ease he or she will be when it comes time to apply for an professional jobs. Applicants that have spent time producing in an office can easily show their value.
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This value is apparent through quality portfolios, glowing recommendations and the confidence that can be gained through hard work at a paid or unpaid internship.

When planning for an internship it is best to consider the rest of your school load. Many students choose to complete their internships during the summer semesters when their course load is much less. Another method is to plan your internship around classes that are less strenuous on a student schedule. If you still choose to complete your internship during the spring or fall semesters I would suggest informing your professors and internship boss about your full schedule. This shouldn’t be used as an excuse, but instead, a notification that you will have adhere to a strict and regimented work schedule. Another tip, don’t fall behind. Murphy’s Law will ensure that you will inevitably have many deadlines coincide with each other. This problem is compounded to disastrous proportions when you are behind on school and work assignments. This creates a situation of sink or swim. A college student who is taking classes and completing an internship at the same time must reorganize and re-prioritize their life, or fail and waste all the time, money and effort it took to come this far.

Internships open the door for many networking opportunities. The old adage, “it’s not what you know, but who you know,” applies to many job hunting situations. Take this for example; two recent graduates are looking for a job. Student A has superior grade scores, but has not professionally networked at all. Student B has average grade scores, but has spent countless hours participating in clubs, student organizations and volunteered their time in exchange for hands on experience. Student A has to put in applications everywhere in hope that someone will see the value in his or her resume, and mock portfolio. In the mean time, student B gets a phone call from a former internship colleague who has a position available. Student B has an advantage because he or she has already proven their worth to the prospective employer. This situation can work many number of ways, and the hirer doesn’t need to have actually worked with the applicant to see their value. Including these networked professionals as a reference can gain the same results. Interning students also have access to make quality mentors who are more than willing to share their knowledge with interested and worthy young minds. Mentoring opportunities can be found by being genuinely interested in the work being done, and in those who you are working with. Asking relevant questions and performing on task will earn respect from those you cross paths with while in the office. Then engaging those around you with intelligent conversation, but it is important to do more listening, than talking.

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