Many academic programs and majors require students to complete internships and co-ops. Some do not. If an internship isn’t mandatory for your area of study, and your schedule allows time to pursue one, give it strong consideration.
When you don’t complete an internship you miss out on the chance to:
1. Get hands-on work experience. Possessing practical knowledge about an industry boosts your qualifications. You can create an “Internship” or “Related Experience” category on your resume, and then talk about relevant job duties and projects during an interview. Very impressive.
2. Gain an edge in the job market. Two candidates interview for a job. Both earned the same degree. One candidate has minimal work experience while the other has completed one or more relevant internships. Who initially appears more qualified for the job?
3. Have the chance to try a career path before committing to it. Reading about a profession through career exploration websites is helpful. But nothing beats the chance to experience a career before committing to it. In addition to doing the actual work, you’ll have the chance to talk with people working in the industry.
4. Network with professionals. Most jobs are found through networking. During your internship you’ll meet people who become colleagues, supervisors and mentors. They’ll recommend professional groups to join, LinkedIn resources to check out and additional people to meet.
5. Learn how to work in an office. Following an office dress code and other office policies, arriving at work on time, handling conflicts within a work setting, interacting with professional peers and supervisors. It takes skill and practice to learn these concepts.
6. Apply classroom knowledge to work environments. Academic preparation shows your ability to learn concepts. Internships give job applicants the chance to apply concepts to real-world settings. This is what employers are interested in hearing about.
7. Develop skills. Employers look for skills when reviewing applications. In addition to industry-related skills you develop transferable skills that are critical for success in many job settings.
8. Acquire references. References vouch for your abilities to perform tasks or use skills to succeed in a job. It’s important to acquire professional references. Internship supervisors and coworkers serve that purpose.
9. Become more confident. Getting experience builds confidence. If an interviewer asks if you can do something, you won’t have to rely on hypotheticals (“Yes, I could do that if I have the chance.”). You can say “Yes I definitely can do that,” and provide concrete examples.