Someone wise once said, “The only way to gain experience and learn is to start at the bottom as a little intern.”
Well, that someone I’m referring to is my rhyming self. I’ve learned a great deal over the course of my three internships.
Allow me to share my top four (three is too generic) reasons for having an internship:
It’s a broad word, but learning is exactly what interning is all about. Specifically, internships not only give you a glimpse into the type of work you’ll potentially be doing when employed, but you’re actually doing the work. Additionally, you’re taking all the knowledge you’ve acquired from those long hours in class and applying it to real-world situations.
This past summer, I interned at experiential marketing company MKG in New York. (Ever watched “The Roast of Donald Trump,” MTV’s Video Music Awards in 2007? Or have you seen that one episode of cancer patient Stephanie’s “My Super Sweet 16”? Yeah, you can thank MKG for that.)
I was part of the Google team working on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, and the hands-on experience was immeasurable. I couldn’t tell you how many vendors I had to reach out to, how much time I spent researching everything from skywriting to custom-shaped Popsicles, and about all the mistakes I made along the way. Because of this internship, I have a better understanding of what goes into planning a successful event.
In addition to learning about the field you’re pursuing, you’re learning about yourself. The beauty of internships is that you can basically “try out” a career before going after it.
If you discover that the work you’re doing isn’t what you’re cut out for, don’t fret. Internships are short-term commitments (typically between two to 10 months), and you can always leave before the end date if you think it’s not meant to be. Also, don’t see the internship as a waste of time. You now know that particular career path isn’t for you. See it as a relief that you don’t have to worry about being stuck in a profession that you detest.
For all you I-get-bored-with-my-hair-easily people out there, internships are analogous to changing your hair color. You can try out your new look to see if it’s what you want, but if you’re not digging it, ditch the ‘do and dye it back.
Networking is a no-brainer, and it’s absolutely necessary that you take advantage of the many opportunities while being around professionals in your field. Asking the right questions and starting a conversation can lead to valued advice, helpful references and even information about job openings.
Asking questions can also lead you in an entirely different direction. At my MKG internship, I noticed copious amounts of paper being printed on one side. I then asked my supervisor why we didn’t use double-sided printing (for internal use, at least).
That little question prompted a whole new endeavor for me: MKGreen. For the rest of my time at MKG, I revamped the company’s previously derailed environmental initiative.
Increase your chances of employment
There are enough facts that show how important internships are for future employment. According to National Association of Colleges and Employers’ (NACE) 2009 Experiential Education Survey, 67.7 percent of 2007-08 interns were offered full-time positions.
From the employer side, 35.3 percent of their full-time, entry-level college hires came from their internship programs. Needless to say, interning can only help with the job search, especially in this job market.
Internships are vital for a career that you’ll like and excel in. Learn from them, ask questions during them, and know that you’re doing the right thing (says the wise one).
Geena Maharaj can be reached at email@example.com.