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Why Are Internships Important & How Can You Get One? 

Natasha Serafimovska

Career Coach, Professional Resume Writer, Freelance Writer

Internships are for college students or people who have just completed their degree. If you are a student or recent grad, you may be wondering how to land an internship. If you’ve never had one, you may even wonder if you need one. After all, didn’t you work in that call center while also doing exams? Or perhaps you’ve bartended your first year in college?

Well, internships are different. They offer work experience in the industry or field that aligns with your professional aspirations. For early career starters, they are an excellent stepping stone to building your skill set and landing your first job.

Here we look at why internships are essential for your career and the steps you can take to land your first one.

How to Land an Internship Fresh out of College

The Clear Concept of Internship

Now that you’re on the precipice of applying for internships, you may not completely understand the difference between an internship and an entry-level job. Internships usually differ in employment periods, working hours, and payments.

For instance, many companies offer summer internships. These are for students who want to work in between academic years. Meanwhile, other companies offer one- and two-year internship programs, which can fast-track interns into full-time roles.

What Do Interns Do?

The type of jobs and tasks you’d perform at your internship will depend on the industry, company, and job. While your manager won’t assign any high-level or strategic responsibilities, you may be given practical tasks. For example, an intern in the marketing department may be asked to do some light research or respond to social media comments.

The internship is a great way to see what it’s like working at the company. You’ll get a feel for the corporate culture and whether you like the field of work you’re pursuing.

Why are Internships Important?

Internships are crucial for developing relevant skills in your desired industry and landing a job but don’t take our word for it. A study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that 53% of graduates landed their jobs directly through internships or internship contacts. 

Also, just because you are an intern doesn’t mean you’ll earn little to no money. A study by Glassdoor found that many internships in the finance and tech industry pay more than the U.S. median salary. For example, Bank of America and J. P. Morgan interns can earn a monthly income of over $5,500. Meanwhile, Facebook interns can cash in a whopping $8,000 per month. 

But, besides making money and increasing your chances of landing a job, here are some other reasons why internships are essential to your career.

Acquire Relevant Skills

The world of work evolves so fast that colleges struggle to catch up. Once many former students begin working, they realize how many corporate skills they lack. In fact, three in four employers say they need help finding candidates with the soft skills their business needs. Likewise, 51% think education has done little or nothing to address the skill shortages they’re seeing. 

An internship can help bridge the gap between what you’ve learned in school and what businesses demand. Immersing yourself in real business problems can provide the learning curve you need to succeed to the next level.

Grow Your Network

Nothing can help your career development like having a strong network. In the corporate world, people are always advocating for each other. So, who you know matters. Getting an internship is a great way to meet professionals from your industry and demonstrate your skills. It’s also a great way to find a mentor.

Learn How a Business Operates

Maybe getting a job isn’t your ultimate goal. Perhaps you dream of becoming an entrepreneur and building your own business. An internship can unlock key insights into how a business works, what mistakes to avoid, and things to watch out for. If you truly immerse yourself in your role, you’re bound to meet colleagues from all levels of seniority across departments, and that can give you a bird’s eye view into how a business is structured.

Prepare for a Full-Time Job

If you’re aiming for a full-time job, your internship is the perfect stepping stone. Businesses like hiring from their pool of interns because they already know you. Additionally, there’s less risk associated with hiring you over someone they’ve never worked with. Not to mention you already know the company culture, so your onboarding process is less strenuous.

And if they aren’t actively hiring, who’s to say that the people you meet there won’t recommend you to someone else they’ve worked with before?

Test Your Chosen Field

Your internship is your ground zero for career building. While working a full-time job might be more challenging, an internship can push you to experiment and ask questions. Also, because internships have an expiration date, they’re a great way to give a career or an industry a test drive before you commit fully.

Get to Know Yourself

Regardless of your job, there are things that we inherently like or don’t like. For instance, working for an employer that requires teamwork may help you realize that you’d prefer more individual work. Having this knowledge is invaluable for mapping out your career trajectory.

Do Interns Make Money?

It depends. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are instances where internships can be unpaid. Many companies opt to pay their interns to attract the best possible talent. While we shared the wages an intern can expect from the tech and finance sector, the average hourly rate for interns with a bachelor’s degree is $19.54.

Are Unpaid Internships Worth It?

According to a study by NACE, 43% of all internships at for-profit companies are unpaid. So, you might be tempted to go for seasonal employment instead.

But, don’t make a rushed decision here. Yes, paid internships are more likely to lead to a job offer than unpaid internships. However, ANY internship will likely have a positive effect on your career. For example, those with an internship had over $2,000 higher annual salary than those without one. 

Likewise, an unpaid internship might make sense if you are targeting a dream company or your career requires hands-on experience, which you cannot get otherwise.

Should You Intern While in College?

You may be worried that your internship will detract from your academic education, but think about it like this. Getting an internship while in college can be a great way to supercharge your learning experience and make the most of what you learn in the classroom. Not only that, but many academic programs require credits from internships.

How to Get an Internship?

If you’re convinced that an internship is a good fit for you, here are a few ways you can go about finding one:

Check out Career Services

Your college must have a career services department. Often, they can help in landing an internship. They may have partnerships with a local business or institution.

Attend Career Fairs

Many colleges host career fairs. Here, organizations showcase their work environment and employee benefits. Update your cover letter and resume, show up and start mingling. You’re bound to find a business or two that will attract your attention. 

Apply to Businesses Directly

Sometimes the best way to get an internship is the direct one. Many companies would have their own internship programs, which they advertise online. This is an excellent approach if you aim for particular companies or roles.

Final Thoughts

Internships can be the exciting first step you take toward building the career of your dreams. They’re a great opportunity to grow your network, acquire new skills, and set yourself up for success. So, don’t hold back if you’re still in college or have just graduated. Get that resume up to date and start applying. Good luck!

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