College graduation rates have gone up year after year. Gone are the days where you graduated high school and landed a good paying job that could provide for you and your family. Now getting a college education merely puts you on level playing ground with the other hordes of people looking for decent paying jobs in a down economy.
How can you ever get ahead?
By making yourself stand-out in the crowd!
Making yourself stand-out can be done in many ways such as a unique resume or a skill set that surpasses all other people in your field, or you can do an internship.
Now I understand that working for free isn’t that appealing but think about what you are doing in college already. You are paying an institution to give you a set of skills that are marketable to potential employers. This is essentially the same thing you are doing in an internship but there are also a few added benefits when you take part in an internship that you do not receive from a traditional college education.
1. Real World Training
When you take part in an internship you get to see what actually happens in the career field you are training for. Like most things, you can read all the books you want but will not fully understand how something works until you do it. For example, you can read 10 books on car mechanics but I would be pretty hesitant to hire you to fix my car if the transmission fails. This idea is applicable to most careers. Without real world training you will be less desirable in the eyes of potential employers.
2. Networking and Contacts
Another added benefit to an internship is getting to meet people who work in the field you are attempting get into. My degree, political science, is less about teaching an individual a specific skill and more about teaching individuals how to critically think. I knew no one involved in politics until I obtained an internship with a lobbyist. This was my sole entrance into my field that eventually lead to me landing another paid internship that also paid for my schooling and then my current job.
3. Knowing the Career is for You
Doing some time in an internship gives you experience in your particular field. This also lets you know if you want a job that your internship is in. Since an internship is temporary, with the chance of leading to full-time employment, it will also give you more information about careers and allow you to make a better decision when you decide to look for a job.
Bonus Benefit: Pad your Resume
Having done an internship allows you to pad your résumé. After you graduate, being able to put relevant experience on your résumé is essential to putting you to the top of the list. Assuming all else is equal, who would you hire, someone who already has experience and know how in your particular field, or the kid who just got good grades?
So start looking for an internship now and do as many as you can. If you are an adult that is going to school for the first time or going back to change careers you may have to swallow your pride a bit but that’s the breaks. I did an internship when I was 30 years old. I shared responsibilities with a 19-year-old and had a 28-year-old boss but I still did it. Sometimes being older can give you an advantage anyways and lead to quicker entry into the field you want.
So enough talking already and start your search for an internship. A good place to start would be your college advisor; they can usually point you in the right direction to begin your search but don’t stop there. Call up potential employers and ask if they have internship opportunities, many businesses are happy to get a little free labor and help students.
Good luck and good interning!