Now that I’ve been in the workforce for a little while, it’s starting to get more apparent to me that a lot of the skills I use at my job now were initiated in my intern years. While some people view internships as useless or a waste of time, I find them to be extremely valuable.
Not only are internships good for career development, but you also gain more life experience, as well (i.e. learning how to build relationships, how to communicate effectively, etc.). Internships can also make you ambitious, if you let them. Being able to work side by side with coordinators and management in my career field helped me better understand what all it takes to enhance my professional skills for the future.
Another misconception that people have about internships are that they’re only for college students. Not true. There are many companies who offer internships for recent graduates and entry-level professionals with very little work experience. Take the time to look around and do your research.
Below are the four reasons I believe internships are important for both your professional and personal growth.
1. Internships provide risk-free learning.
This has to be the biggest benefit I’ve ever experienced while interning. As an intern, you’re there to learn and grow, period. You’re hardly ever put in a situation where one of your mistakes is so massive, that it affects the entire department (or even worse, the entire company). That’s the beauty of it. The knowledge you gain while on the job is practically risk-free. Of course you have to do the job that’s expected of you, but interning is made for mess-ups and mix-ups. Don’t beat yourself up so much. Learn from your mistake and move on.
2. Internships contribute to your overall work experience.
Internships are a great way to extend your overall work experience. For example, I technically have about two and a half years of professional work experience right now but nearly four years of internship experience. All together, I have approximately six years of experience in my career field. But if you’re going to make these types of statements, you have to make sure you do everything right. None of the internships I had were blow-off jobs. They were all real jobs with real assignments and real experiences. Some of the skills I have now were strictly from my internships, not from my current job. All of these factors play a big part in selling your work experience to potential employers.
3. Internships teach you the “chain of command” concept.
I think I learned this around my second year of interning. Back in 2014, I interned for a very large corporate company with multiple layers of management. The coordinator who managed me at the time helped me understand what a chain of command looks like and how I should treat it. Knowing who’s in charge of who and who to speak to first will go a long way. While this isn’t always an issue at every job you’ll have, it’s still a very important skill to understand the management chain and how it can affect your projects and tasks at hand.
4. Internships allow you to explore your career field without the commitment.
It was during my intern years that I discovered exactly what I like and don’t like about my career field. (Short answer: there’s not much I don’t like about mine.) But if you have any doubts about what you studied in college or what you THOUGHT you liked in high school, interning is the perfect way to determine if your interests are what you want to do as a career. Not to mention, interning in multiple industries can spark a new interest, as well. I used to be opposed to working for nonprofits, but considering most of my internship experience was at a nonprofit, I now gravitate toward nonprofits more than anything! Think over your internship experience, and make a list of your career pros and cons.
The most important thing I would say about internships is to make sure you’re learning something. If all you’re doing is fetching coffee for your manager or making copies on the printer, then that internship may not be the one for you. I’m thankful for my internship experience because I was able to work in various industries and extend my overall professional experience. How have your internships helped you? Are you interning right now? Would you take an internship in the near future? Leave all your thoughts in the comment section below!
*Featured photo by Nastuh Abootalebi.