All I heard during my junior year in college was the importance of internships and networking. Come spring semester, I took it to heart and started looking for a summer internship. I found a cool opportunity as a marketing intern at a small financial firm. I’ve always thought financial planning was interesting so I was excited about the opportunity. To my chagrin, my interview was canceled the morning of. I honestly hustled for that internship, leaving several voicemails and sending emails, I even went down to the office and got a second interview scheduled. Then the partner who was supposed to conduct the interview stood me up. At that point, I decided it wasn’t a place I wanted to be. A bad experience with an internship can be discouraging, but the right internship can serve as a launchpad for your career.
Why An Internship?
Like me, you’ve probably heard (since freshman year) that internships are important. But many students aren’t interested. Perhaps they had an experience like I did, or perhaps they just don’t want to hustle one up. The truth is, the next spring I found an internship that was right for me and it served as a prolonged interview eventually landing me a full-time job. I’m certainly not alone as internships.com cite studies showing that interns have as good as a 70% chance to be hired by the company they intern with. There are two indispensable advantages a good internship will provide you with: experience and connections.
Internships Provide Experience
Experience isn’t just the skills you learn, it’s exposure to the nature of business. Taking the skills and knowledge you are accumulating in the classroom and testing them in the workforce is eye opening. It can bring meaning to what you are learning. It can also highlight areas in which your classwork is not preparing you properly. You can start to round yourself out. You can observe the work habits of your co-workers and the culture of your company. You gain valuable insight into human nature: that of clients, customers, co-workers, and bosses. There is a huge difference between college and corporate America. I assume the same is true of most industries. This little package of life experience is easily worth as much as a three credit class.
Internships Provide Connections
The second major benefit you receive from internships is connections. However, you have to hustle a little bit more to build them. Start by meeting as many people as you can. If you’re ever invited to spend time with your co-workers, jump at the opportunity. Stay busy and make your time as an intern as diverse as possible. Make friends and don’t burn bridges. An entry level worker you become friends with might be middle management in 3 years when you really need a job. An internship is a good way to get a job directly (by getting hired on). It’s also a good way to get a job indirectly (think references) by building a network which will reap rewards later on.
Before You Apply
One last tip: before you apply, research the company. Know what they do. Try looking for a few hidden nuggets in the “about us”, “meet the team”, or “company history” pages. Your potential employer is the one party that won’t be creeped out by some effective cyber stalking. This will translate very well in your interview.
If you’re not sure where to start, check out a few cool companies who offer internships to get a feel for the market.