Internships are a well-known gateway to professional success.
No matter what your field is, getting professional experience while you’re achieving your degree or after you’ve recently finished it is a huge bonus for your resume and future career.
The expectations for internships have risen far beyond the stereotype of overworked coffee-fetching employees. The majority of today’s internships provide hands-on, real-world experience that allow young professionals to invest their time and talent in projects that have tangible results.
Oftentimes, colleges and universities have programs in place to help students and recent grads find internships. But at the end of the day, it’s up to you to take your future into your own hands and chase the perfect internship for you.
So what are some things you need to be asking yourself when beginning your search for an internship opportunity?
1. What are my core strengths?
Put yourself on the other side of the interview desk for a moment. What do YOU bring to the table? What are the one, two, or three skills and qualities that truly set you apart from other candidates? Recognizing the value that you add to an organization will help you identify which one will be the best fit.
2. What are the areas in which I want to grow?
Be mindful of your weaknesses as well as your strengths. Let’s say that you are interested in a career in marketing, and your college coursework has been light in a key area of that field, such as data analytics. An internship is a great opportunity for you to fill that gap and learn essential skills before you’re thrown into the fire of full-time employment.
3. How much time can I commit to an internship?
Ahh, time management. This is an especially important issue for young professionals who are currently in school and have coursework responsibilities. If you’re an undergraduate student with a full class schedule, maybe a summer internship is the way to go. If you’re enrolled in online grad school, perhaps you can commit 20 hours a week year-round internship. If you’ve graduated, you might be more flexible. Be realistic about your schedule and mindful about work-life balance. You’ll thank yourself later.
4. What are my expectations regarding compensation?
Many interns are paid on an hourly basis. Some receive lump-sum scholarships. Others aren’t paid at all. Before you begin your search, be honest with yourself about your expectations for pay. Do you need this internship to help pay the bills? Will you be satisfied and fulfilled without a paycheck? How much would you reasonably expect to be paid per week? Asking these kinds of questions early on will help you weed out options for your internship and narrow down your search.
5. What do I want to gain from this experience?
It’s a simple question, yet surprisingly tough to answer: why do you want this internship? Maybe it’s because you need another income stream. Maybe it’s because there are certain skills you want to develop before you enter the workplace on a full-time basis. Maybe you’re hopeful that an internship at a great company will lead to a job offer when you graduate.
Whatever the case may be, it’s important that you spend some time to reflect on your goals for the internship so that you can filter out opportunities that won’t help you get there. We recommend journalling your internship goals as you begin your search so that you can refer back to those objectives once you’re hired.
What advice do you have regarding internships? Share your thoughts in the comments!