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Making Internships Beneficial to You

You’ve probably heard a lot of flak about internships of late and some of it is certainly deserved. Most internships are unpaid, highly competitive and very menial; it’s basically a chance for a company to hire a couple of people to do all the grunt work, pay them nothing and call it a great work experience. Sometimes the things which happen in an internship border on something approaching slavery and criminal activity, when it doesn’t simply burst with working rights scandals. But all this is not to say that internships can be hugely beneficial; you just have to make them work for you so that you maximize the benefits and minimize the useless filler.

What is an Internship?

The idea of an ‘internship’ has actually been around, in one form or another, for centuries. It’s the practice of a student or someone learning at trade or skill, learning it from someone who knows what they’re doing. The student-master dichotomy is the forerunner of our current educational system and is still found in many industries with people ‘mentoring’ or ‘training’ newcomers. An internship is simply a more formal way of doing just there, where a business takes in a student (or a few students) and teaches them the ropes of the industry by having them doing work at the ground level. Internships have been fading in many industries due to a lack of demand or because of scandals or it’s simply inappropriate, but in many other industries, it’s thriving.

Internships are generally done in school, they are not generally paid (although they can be) and they are done with the understanding that the intern has other responsibilities such as schoolwork, meaning the hours are more random. It can be rough juggling all three, but internships usually only last a few months up to a year.

Using Internships Wisely

There are no small number of horror stories about internships out there, ranging from them being simply useless to them being damaging in some way. But the horror stories are no reason to steer clear of internships in general; what they should do is show you what to watch out for and how best to tackle internships so that you get the maximum benefits. Here are some tips on how to pull that off:

    1. Research your internship opportunities. You don’t have to hop on the first one that comes along. Research the company, find out what you’ll be doing and see which opportunities line up with your goals and career plans.

    2. Internships on an opportunity to not only learn what it’s like to work in a given industry, but also to network with others, make connections, figure out what you’re good at and what you enjoy and yes, figure out what you don’t like. Use these things! Connect with others on the job, find a mentor for the internship among the employees, build up a professional network and of course, do any and all work put before you in the best possible way so that by the end, you have made yourself valuable.

    3. Work your butt off. Don’t only stick with what you’re told to do, but try to go above and beyond as well to prove your value. You may not get a job in this company, but you will build up references, gain experience, have more to add to your resume, and have a small network from which to draw. All of these will help you land a job after you graduate and stay ahead of the competition.

The point of internships is not to give the business some free labor, but to give students a leg up in the more competitive industries. Internships are still alive in well in industries such as theater, business, design and trades and by ignoring them, you will end up shooting yourself in the foot. Take full advantage of the opportunity by researching to find the right fit and then working at it while meeting other people. When you graduate, you’ll be that much closer to landing the job you actually want and have a good experience to look back on. Good luck!