It’s the time of year when you’re getting bombarded with information about internship opportunities. Here are a few things to know:
- Internships can be useful, but they’re not a magic bullet. There are majors that position students to go into specific kinds of industries, and for those programs an internship with the right company is the key to success after graduation (think engineering, computer science, accounting, finance). English, Creative Writing, and Teaching of English don’t work like that. These majors equip you to excel in a wide range of internships, but an internship may not be the best path to a career that interests you.
- Internships are a great way to get experience, but they’re not the only way. If your goal is a job in management or consulting with a large corporation, then a paid summer internship with the kind of company you have in mind is a great first step. if your goal is a creative career in screen-writing or TV production, you might be better off spending a summer working a retail job that will give you time and energy to hone your skills on your own independent film project. The secondary education program here has a built-in internship in the form of student teaching — there’s really no need to seek out an additional internship unless you want to explore other career paths.
- Volunteer work, paid part-time employment, and RSO leadership are also important ways to explore your career interests and gain experience — and depending on your career path, some of these might be more helpful than an internship. If you are interested in publishing or editing, for example, most paid internships (and even unpaid internships with prestigious organizations) will expect you to have experience already — which you can best get by working on a student publication (high school experience has a limited shelf life once you’re out of high school), volunteering your editing skills for a nonprofit organization, or getting a part-time job with a communications component to it.
- Not all internships are the same. Some are paid, some are not. Some give you hands-on responsibility, some give you the opportunity to watch from the sidelines. Some organizations have a lot of experience working with interns, others craft the internship position as they go along. Some internships serve as a pipeline to a full-time job after graduation, some do not. Some employers expect applicants to relocate and provide housing, others leave you to your own devices. Some internship programs are thinly-disguised schemes to get low-cost labor, others are equivalent to well-paid part-time or short-term jobs.
- You have time, and you have choices. If you’re not sure what kind of internship you’d want, or how an internship might fit into your future goals, it’s okay. Look at the information you get about internships as it comes your way and see what piques your interest or sounds like something you might want to try. Read up on the employers offering summer internships at the the campus career fairs this fall, and go talk to a couple just to expand your sense of what’s possible. Find ways to get involved around campus. If you need to work while you’re here, think about how your choice of part-time work can help you build some relevant skills. As you get more familiar with what’s available and what you like doing, you’ll find it easier to sift through the possibilities and seek out the things that can help you.