The Who, What and Why of Internships
Guest Post by Kayla Stevens
As a student, you sometimes don’t realize how much “real world” experience can help you, before you actually need it. This is where internships come into play. Unfortunately, now internships have become the center of negative discussion within large companies and ambitious students everywhere.
The New York Times published an article in early April about unpaid internships and the great debate as to whether they are legal or not. However, the NYT article just reaffirmed what students and businesses worldwide already knew, specifically, that this is a growing issue. With the economy continuing to boom, employers have begun taking advantage of “free labor,” also known as internships. The problem with this is that many students probably haven’t broached the subject, because they are gaining experience, able to put recognizable company names on their resumes, and are receiving letters of recommendation. What could possibly be negative about that?
First, the fact that half of all interns are being taken for granted, and on top of that, not being paid for their time and effort. Second, there are even some companies that make you pay them for the experience.
Internships almost seem like a requirement to land a job post-graduation these days, so why not partake in one? I personally believe that they are something everyone should look into. Today, not only are college students applying, but so are high school students and adults who are out of work or are looking for a career change. The unique aspect about interning is that you don’t necessarily have to know the direct path of your career at that time, but rather an area of interest. More so as a student, you have the possibility to intern with various companies and feel out diverse environments and experiences, which will inevitably, help you to choose your desired career. Who wouldn’t want to take advantage of an opportunity to try out his/her field before committing?
One may wonder what qualities you must have in order to take on an internship. The answer is simple; you simply have to be someone with dedication and desire. Depending on the type of internship you are applying for, there may be particular skill requirements you must meet. For example, you might have to be able to work Adobe Photoshop if you want to intern with a graphic design company, or you must be familiar with a particular fashion brand if you want to intern as a public relations consultant. Either way, you have to start somewhere.
As unfortunate as it is, interning has become an experience that you have to prepare for. By this I mean both financially and on paper. However, if you know what you want in life, or even if you don’t, the best way to find out is by trying different things. Internships allow you to learn from the professionals while making and learning from your mistakes. Companies don’t expect their interns to be perfect, but rather show eagerness to learn and willingness to take chances.
Ask any professional and they will agree that internships are beneficial. Not only do they give real-world experience, they also increase the chances of employment after graduation. Benefits to interning include, but are not limited to:
- A stronger work ethic
- A better concept of time management
- An increase in confidence
- Enhanced personal communication skills
Personally, I feel that the main benefits of interning are learning and networking! Learning is obviously key. You wouldn’t take part in an internship if you didn’t want to learn, and whether you are pouring coffee or writing press releases, you are still learning. Networking is amazing in itself because you get the opportunity to meet people you wouldn’t have otherwise met, and through them, you encounter experiences and connections that will only benefit your future. Even if you do an internship and decide to change your major after your experience, those connections you made during that time, might know someone that knows another someone, who can help you with your new interest. In this case, it’s about quality not quantity.
If there is any beneficial advice I can give to those thinking about interning, it is to not wait around for an opportunity to come to you. Although great things can land on our laps, that isn’t always the case. You have to research and network, and know what you want. The harder you try, the better the outcome.
Kayla Stevens is a student at The University of South Florida, studying public relations, and will graduate in May 2011. She currently is a virtual intern for Lauren Berger, The Intern Queen (www.internqueen.com), and is looking to meet and learn from PR professionals. Connect with her on Twitter (@knsteven), LinkedIn () or her blog (www.kaynichole.wordpress.com).
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