As a college student you have the amazing and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to just experience life. Internships are a major, and often underestimated, vehicle for this.
My name is John Dailey. I’m a senior marketing major and management information systems minor, and I’ve been an intern/co-op four times in my five-year collegiate career. I’d like to explore the different aspects of internship/co-op experiences through this column. This week, I’ll extol the virtues of why someone gets involved in an internship.
Personally, I’ve been motivated to pursue internships and co-ops predominantly, like so many students, through a need for monetary security. I need a job. That’s really why I started my internship journey. That being said, I have always had a hunger to learn about how organizations work.
When I got my first teenage job at a deli, it was mostly because I wondered what it was like to be behind that counter. Then, in college, I realized there was more. The opportunity to actually experience a wide variety of different organizations – and meet the people who ran them – was at my door. I was hooked.
However, I really lacked a sense of direction. I knew that I had this great chance and that I had to seize it, but in hindsight, I could have applied – and developed – my talents in a more focused way.
If this message resonates with you, you are not alone. I believe there are many students out there who were like me – wide-eyed, driven and in need of guidance.
Throughout the last few years, I’ve had the privilege of wearing many hats. First, I helped manage content and media for an expanding nonprofit, engaging the homeless via running. Next, I worked with the advertising sales team of a large business publication. After that, I spent seven months – and about $1 million – as a full-time co-op at a much larger pharmaceutical manufacturer. Most recently, I worked with a blog uniting the tech community in Philadelphia.
Some things I did right, but I’ve also messed up a whole bunch of times. Regardless, I’ve learned a lot.
Most people see internships as a vehicle for professional growth. Working as an intern is certainly a way to pick up some skills, nourish your résumé and, for the luckier among us, secure a job after school. However, I have found that there are more benefits to be had than just the professional ones.
Through this column, I’d like to share some of the observations that I’ve made, while also exploring what it means to be an intern with you.
Like almost everything else, there are pitfalls to avoid. There are absolutely organizations out there that want to take advantage of the free labor interns provide without giving much in return.
Some supervisors are either poor leaders or are inexperienced and therefore fail in doing their part to help you grow and learn. And then there are interns that fail to approach the opportunity before them in a way that maximizes their own returns. A good deal of time, energy and personal confidence can be saved if one is smart about their choices when selecting and going through an internship.
On a more positive note, if you aim carefully and hit that sweet spot by landing the right position within the right organization that has the right culture, your world could be illuminated.
It is for this reason that I say this: When it comes to either doing an internship or not, your major does not matter. Whether you’re working toward a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering or fine arts, an internship can provide a wealth of opportunity that may impact nearly every aspect of your life for the better.
Obviously, a paid opportunity will fill your pockets with spending money or allow you to save a fistful of dollars. Perhaps you’ll even land a great full-time gig.
Aside from the monetary aspect, you could also build up your personal confidence, which you then carry into nearly every aspect of your life. It is amazing how legitimate praise from a supervisor can make you feel like you can do anything.
I can honestly say that after having been put into many diverse situations during my experiences, I have come out much more confident as an individual.
Being thrown in front of a group of professionals for a presentation that you’ve learned about only hours before or making 300 phone calls trying to sell things to people who are really disinterested, does indeed make one more prepared to speak to that attractive member of the appropriate gender identity at the other end of the bar.
Aside from the additional confidence, interning is a great way to meet like-minded friends that share a passion for a particular field. The power of a good friend cannot be overstated when it comes to networking — or for personal fulfillment.
One thing that I’ve definitely gleaned while running the gamut as an intern is that you can learn a great deal through experience, both about yourself and the world.
Experiences are something that can never be lost or taken away. Why would anyone not want to collect as many as possible?
Develop a work ethic. See what you like and what you don’t. Expose your strengths and weaknesses. Grow as a person.
John Dailey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.