Today, for the first time I believe, I’m dedicating the entire post to the topic of internships. I can’t believe I haven’t done it before now given the importance of the topic, but thanks to Allen from Florida, I’m now on the case. He writes:
I’m currently a sophomore at a public state university in Florida and I’ve been wondering about how important it is to get an internship and/or other career related experiences.
Very important. Not critical, as in, “you can never get hired without one,” but very important, as in, “it gives you a huge advantage over other applicants who don’t have any work experience.” But carry on…
I’m currently in the process of interviewing with a potential employer for an internship over the summer, but I feel that even if I do get an internship this coming summer it’s going to be a bitter-sweet situation. The problem is that if I get an internship ( high chances ), I would not be able to take this core class for my degree program over the summer and will have to take it in the fall (this class is a prerequisite for most of my other classes).
I will still have a full load of classes for the upcoming fall semester, but not taking this one class will push all the other major classes back a semester or two. Since my freshman year, I’ve been told how important it is to obtain real-world experiences, but now I’m not sure really what to do.
If I get an internship this summer should I accept it and push my time of graduation back a semester or two? Or should I decline and take that class, which will keep me on track for my remaining semesters? Any advice on this would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks, Allen. I don’t usually like to be so cut-and-dried with my answers since every situation has its unique details for every person that may sway one’s decision, but in this case, I can’t really find much balance. My advice is to take the internship. Here are some reasons why:
1) Internships are really, really valuable, on multiple levels. First and most importantly, employers like you to have them. An internship is like a trial run at a real job, basically, and if you’ve done that successfully, the future employers that you’ll be sending resumes to will be more assured that you can handle a real job if they offer you one.
It’s especially helpful if that internship was at a job that’s very similar to the kind of job you’re applying for — you’ll need less training that way at your new gig, probably. But even if it’s not, don’t worry: there are basic job skills and etiquette that you can acquire at any internship. Showing up on time, doing what you’re asked to do, doing it on time, being polite, dressing appropriately, etc. — all this stuff is what you can show your future employer during an internship of any kind.
2) For all the reasons stated above, internships are also very good for YOU and your professional growth. I feel pretty confident saying that, for at least 80% of you, the internship(s) that you do during college will be, by far, the best and most valuable preparation you experience for the job you’ll get after graduating. For most of you, no college course or campus job will even come close to teaching you what an internship will.
3) Graduating “on time” isn’t that big of a deal to most employers. Unless you’re a “Tommy Boy” type who took seven years to graduate with a bachelor’s degree just because you were partying too much or too dense to pass basic classes the first time, we don’t really care how long it took you to graduate. If you’re ready to work now, then right on.
And you can put an exclamation point on this if, as is Allen’s situation, you took the extra time to graduate because you were doing an internship. I’ve yet to meet an employer (and I’ve met a lot of ’em) who frown on an applicant who took it upon herself to gain more professional experience before trying to get a job.
4) Remember this: when you’re graduating and are looking for a job, the most important section of your resume will be the “experience” section, and without internships, that section might be pretty sparse. However, that “experience” section gets fatter and juicier with every internship that you complete. When it’s time to do your first resume, you’ll be extremely happy you did those internships.
5) Consider the alternative: you skip the internship and graduate five months early. What benefit will you have realized from doing that? Well, you’ll have bought yourself five extra months to shop around a weaker resume than you would’ve had if you’d just stuck with the internship, and you’ll have bought the right to say, “I graduated in four years!” Which, even though it’s a lot rarer than it used to be, still isn’t a huge deal to anyone I’ve ever known.
I graduated in four years myself, even with a couple of changes of major and minor — and no one, not one person, has ever even asked me about it that I can recall, let alone given me any credit or esteem for doing so. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a cool accomplishment, but it’s just not one that anyone other than yourself is going to recognize very much.
What about you all, any thoughts on the subject? Please add them below if you have questions or comments — I always love to hear them, whether they’re positive, negative or absolutely ridiculous.
I’m off to the State Farm claims office to collect a check for my wife’s totaled car (and for those of you who asked, she is healing quite nicely, and thanks for your well-wishes!).
Coincidentally enough, I sat in on the National Student Advertising Competition regional finals at the University of Minnesota a couple of weekends ago, and this year’s sponsor happens to be State Farm, and the advertising problem that students have to address for this year’s competition is State Farm’s lack of market penetration among 18-to-24-year-olds. I’ll also be sitting in on the national finals in Orlando in June (so come find me on Foursquare if any of you are going to be there!).
So yeah, if all you in that target demographic want a reason that State Farm is a pretty good, check out that whole crash-on-Saturday, check-on-Tuesday situation. Doesn’t get much better than that. (This is not a paid ad, although it’s beginning to sound like one, so I’ll shut up now). Anyhow, leave comments/questions below on the whole internships deal. Have a good night!