It may seem like everyone, from parents to neighbors to professors, are encouraging you to get an internship while you’re in college. Why is it important to get a student internship?
In addition to giving you valuable skills and experience, it is important to think about an internship as a vital part of the career process.
To put this idea in perspective, it can be helpful to learn more about how the idea of internships has evolved.
Internships have become so ingrained in professional culture, that February 2 was even named Job Shadowing Day (mimicking the Groundhog Day shadow tradition).
Job shadowing is kind of like a mini-internship, where you spend the day with a professional in the field of your choice. Job shadowing is different from interning because you are there as an observer more than a participant. This means that you will have the opportunity to attend meetings and network with people you wouldn’t necessarily have access to during your internship of internship program. While the U.S. Department of Labor and Junior Achievement may have labeled February 2 as Job Shadowing Day, you might want to consider job shadowing at one or more offices before committing yourself to an internship. This will allow you to get a full picture of the types of internships and jobs that are available to you.
Early internships were most often referred to as "apprenticeships" and were developed in medieval times, as craftsmen looked for ways to pass on skills to their successors. Apprentices would immerse themselves completely in the lives of their "masters" going so far as to live with them for a full year while learning the trade. This process became more systematic and regulated as time went on, and as traditional employment opportunities evolved, so did the concept of "on-the-job" training, which made internships as necessity, in addition to apprenticeships. In modern terms, and apprenticeship deals more with crafts and trades while internships deal with office jobs.
The truth is that while student internships will offer you the opportunity to learn skills and grow as a professional, one of the most important reasons to get an internship is that future employers will be looking for an internship of your resume. Very often, an employer will look more favorably on someone who spent their summer learning and working than on someone who was at the beach or on vacation. While it may seem like an attractive option to "make the most" of your summers while you are in college, before you enter the job market it is also important to make time for the kind of internship that will help map out your future.
This can mean getting a placement in the spring or fall in conjunction with your classes, or perhaps doing a slightly shorter-term internship.
But the number one reason to get an internship is because you have a true interest in the field, and are realistically thinking about pursuing a career in that field. While there may be many people telling you that getting an internship job is a good idea, getting the right internship is up to you. Internship job supervisors or directors are skilled at being able to read whether or not an intern is truly interested in their job, so if you have a lot of enthusiasm for it, it will show and you will be successful. Therefore, the best internship decision you can make is to apply to an internship because you really want it.
However the idea of an internship has changed, the core idea of getting an internship remains the same. That is, there are things that you can learn at the office or in the shop that you simply cannot learn in the classroom. These are things like organizational skills, people management, time management and negotiations. While college and university might offer classes in all of these areas and then some, it is hard to find a place to practice these skills outside of the work environment, making an internship a vital part of your development as a professional.