Value of internships

InternMatch recently posted an interview with a woman who got a position as assistant to the creative director at Shape Magazine straight out of college. Her secret? Internships.

Although I did various internships in college, I didn’t realize how valuable they were until I was applying for jobs. The importance of internships cannot be stressed enough. People always complain that to get a job you need experience, but to get experience you need a job. It becomes a vicious cycle. Want to know how to avoid the cycle? Get an internship or two, preferably in college.

Now that I’ve been a student, been an intern and been an employee, I know just how amazing internships are. Internships are great ways to explore what you want to do. They are somewhere in between class and work, making them the perfect training to enter the workforce.

Think homework versus work. You essentially pay to do homework, and if you don’t do it, you get a bad grade. On the other hand, your employer pays you to do work, and if you don’t do it, you get fired. In internships, there is either minimal or no money exchanged. You are exchanging beginner labor for education and training at a company.

When you are a student, everything is handed to you in a neat syllabus that outlines exactly how the semester is going to go. When you are an employee, your purpose at a company is to get the job done, and it is usually solely your responsibility. When you are an intern, everyone you work with knows you are there to learn. That means that they will treat you somewhat like a student, but in the field.

Internships give you real-life experience without all the pressure of “I need to earn my salary.” It is especially acceptable to ask questions, you are doing a job in the actual industry, and getting real life experience that you can’t get in a classroom. You’re basically an employee without the stress of being a paid employee, and a student with the benefit of learning by experience.

One of the cool things about internships is that once you start collecting them, it’s easy to keep going. You can do a writing internship, learn to write some press releases, then use that experience to get an editing internship. With two internships on your resume, you can get into a hospitality internship and learn a new skill set. You can just keep adding to your list of skills, because you learn multiple skills and abilities at every internship–they are designed to teach you. Then, when you are ready to start working, you are fully equipped with communication skills, customer service skills, writing and grammar skills, time management skills, proofreading skills, teamwork skills and everything else you learned at your internships.

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