Even in today’s overheated job market, the experience of having one or more internships can be a huge competitive advantage for new graduates seeking that first job. Each year, thousands of students emerge with a degree ready to enter the workforce. However, those who demonstrate they have invested the time and energy to participate in an internship will have a significant leg up when it comes to catching the eye of their ideal employer.
So why are internships so valuable?
We have all heard that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Even more importantly, when it comes to your career, it’s who knows you that counts. Internships allow students to build relationships with seasoned professionals already working in their chosen field. This process lets you see up close and personal the career trajectory that others have taken, while building professional and personal connections that can last a lifetime.
The fact is that an internship offers you a window into how people in the workplace tackle difficult problems, inspire great outcomes and resolve conflict. In addition, working in a collaborative setting teaches you valuable skills about how to interact with a variety of personalities and skill sets.
There is more to any job than a degree-based education can teach you. Internships give you real-life experience that just cannot be found in the classroom. While many traditional college courses focus on theory, an internship is always about practice. Interns leave their experience with real working knowledge about what it takes to succeed. After graduation, they can already demonstrate the necessary skills for any profession, such as how to use common software applications or the ability to use professional jargon commonly used at work.
Sometimes an internship helps you discover that your chosen career path simply is not for you. Having a bad internship experience can inspire you to pivot to another field of study before it is too late, saving you (and your parents) years of anguish and lots of money. For example, working in a law firm and realizing you don’t relish the long hours and exacting attention to detail required might inspire you to pursue a different career path better suited to your skills and personality. Or, if you are squeamish about blood, you might decide to pursue industrial automation or coding rather than health care as a career.
The fact is that internships, like life itself, involve discovery — discovery about the profession you think you want to pursue, discovery about how other humans operate at work, and most importantly, discovery about yourself and what inspires you to happiness and professional fulfillment.