In fact, these days, internships are almost as important as a college degree. Companies do not want to hire people who are “trying out” a job for the first time. They would rather have employees that have already interned or worked in the same career field and already know that they enjoy working there. And many companies prefer people who have tried out a variety of fields through interning.
One of the main reasons employers hire people with internship experience is that they have already spent the time learning the ropes, making mistakes (or watching others make and spend time correcting mistakes), and understanding the working world. Just remember, “The man who does things makes many mistakes, but he never makes the biggest mistake of all – doing nothing” (Benjamin Franklin). The more you do at an internship (whether you succeed or fail), the more you will learn and be able to apply that knowledge toward your next internship or career.
At an internship you may learn how to work 8-hour workdays five days a week (or maybe even overtime), how to handle workplace politics, and what the industry’s buzzwords are (every industry has its own “language”), along with a variety of other skills. However, internships are not only a learning experience, they can help you decide what career you would like to pursue and provide you with ways to get that career.
The best way to discover the right career for you is to do as many internships as possible during college – start your freshman year if you can. According to VAULT’s 2006 Internship Survey, “31% of students will have completed one internship by the summer after graduation, while 53% of the students will have completed 2 or more internships.” So you are not alone if you want to experiment in a few different fields by doing multiple internships.
Internships will help you discover what you are truly passionate about. By “passionate,” I mean that you want to find a job where ten or fifteen years from now you are excited to jump out of bed to go to that same job (or field). You will be spending the next forty years of your life working, so internships are an important step in helping you find something that you love doing while also making money.
If you think having an internship means working for free at a job where you have to run and get coffee, copy thousands of pages from a book, or answer phones all day long, you may be surprised to learn that not all internships are boring and full of trivial tasks. You may get to help out in the Emergency Room, learn how to train guide dogs, or give your advice on a new video game. And the good news is that internships have so many benefits that they will actually outweigh any tedious tasks you may end up doing as an intern.
The most important part of an internship is discovering what you like or dislike about working in that field. In an internship, you do not necessarily have to decide what your exact career title will be, but you can figure out what aspects of the internship you enjoy and would like in a future career and what aspects to avoid. The job market is huge and there seem to be more and more complex job titles popping up everywhere. Your internship won’t necessarily help you decide that you will be a Quality Assurance Specialist in a biotech company, but it will help you realize that you do not care to do experiments and research.