The Value of Internships
A professional internship can be a beneficial experience for the college student or degree candidate. It can provide important work experience, help puff out your resume and provide valuable networking opportunities. In addition, it may allow you to debunk myths you've created about the career you always thought you wanted. At the very least it will afford you an honest snapshot of what you're career may be.
But is an internship right for you, your degree program or your professional goals? Not every student will benefit equally from an internship while other students will find that their degree is contingent upon one. To determine if this is the path for you, you'll first need to define the relevant terms and investigate the requirements of your degree program.
Defined simply, an internship is a temporary job that is designed to provide practical experience and on-the-job training for individuals interested in pursuing a career in that field. These positions can be paid or unpaid and can last from a few weeks to longer.
Some degree programs or career paths feature an internship as a degree requirement. These include nursing, elementary education, legal careers, many business programs. Entry into one of these professions means completing a degree program that will require you to successfully complete a professional internship while attending school. You will most likely receive course credit for the experience.
There are other fields where an internship is not a requirement but can considerably increase your career options. Some colleges are even starting to require internships for liberal arts majors. This can be seen as recognition of the value of work experience for college graduate new hires. With successful internships on your resume you can show hiring managers that you can handle the responsibility even before getting the job.
The Internet is a great place to begin your search for the perfect internship. There are many good sites that offer a range of relevant information. One problem you may encounter is that there are so many internship websites that it can be difficult to know which of them to choose. Be prepared to spend some time sorting through all of the sites. The site you want will have multiple filters, allowing you to customize your search and will send you email alerts when new information comes in.
Another key component of finding the perfect internship is networking. The emphasis here should be on casting as wide a net as possible. Talk to friends, family, the family of friends, past and current employers, talk to anyone that will listen. Networking is both helpful in landing an internship and a key benefit you can expect to get out of an internship. The professional contacts you make in your internship can be the key to a rewarding career.
Don't forget a quality resume and cover letter. Try and get some editing help with both documents. Another pair of eyes to look over your resume and cover letter can be very helpful.
As for when to begin looking, you can begin as early as your second semester. You'll want to have a least a semester of coursework under your belt first. You'll need to determine how demanding your courses are and you'll also want to have the grades to show you can handle the extra work. Many students may find it beneficial to wait until sophomore year to begin their search.