As someone who just finished her second summer of internships, allow me to offer 10 of the best reasons for completing an internship.
1. You get valuable experience
If you end up with an internship in your desired field, this is a great opportunity to figure out if accounting, marketing, IT, etc. is what you really want to do for the rest of your life. If it is, then you will enter the job market having already learned some of the skills necessary to be successful in that career.
2. You build your résumé, even if the internship isn’t related to your future career
This relates back to the first point because as you gain experience, you can update your résumé to reflect that. Even if you decide you don’t want to be an accountant, showing future employers that you took the initiative to do an internship and have experience in a corporate setting will make you a better candidate.
3. You grow your network and connect with managers and other interns
If during your internship you make a concerted effort to meet people, you will leave your program having grown your professional network. Not only will you have met managers and people already working in the company, but you will have met other interns who will someday be working for companies across the country. These connections can prove invaluable when you need that extra push to make your application stand out above the rest.
4. You keep your brain working during the summer (and you avoid the crushing boredom of having nothing to do)
It’s easy to think that after you’ve finished your year of school, you deserve a break. And you do, but you also owe it to yourself to keep your brain active during the summer. Additionally, if your position relates to your major, the internship will allow you to put into context what you’ve already learned in your classes. The new knowledge you gain will also give you a real world perspective to apply to your future courses.
5. You can develop future job prospects, or at least score an awesome reference
At many companies, internship programs are set up as a way to groom future employees. Many interns don’t realize this, but an internship is sometimes a very long interview process. At your internship, be sure to ask your manager or someone in your Human Resources department about future employment. Even if they don’t have an opening immediately, if you prove you are a good worker, they will keep you in mind when something opens up. Also, if you feel another company meets your needs better, your manager can provide a great reference (assuming you did a great job while you worked for him/her).
6. You can (hopefully) start building your savings, or at least you have some extra cash to spend over the summer
If you are lucky enough to land a paying internship, you will have the opportunity to start building a savings account. You might even make enough to start thinking about investing. If you aren’t in a situation to put money in savings, you will at least have some extra money to pay the bills with, and maybe a little left over to use to enjoy your summer!
7. You learn how to work in a corporate environment for 40 hours a week
I came into my first internship thinking I knew what I was getting into, but the reality was far from my expectations. During my internship I realized that working 8-5 requires some schedule adjustments and new expectations for how to use free time. In addition, I learned how to conduct myself in accordance with the company’s guidelines, how to communicate effectively with my coworkers and how to budget my time between projects. All of this knowledge will serve me well regardless of where I end up in the future, and it can inform my decision as to what type of working environment is best for me.
8. You can use your fellow interns as resources to find something that will meet your needs for a future internship
I was lucky enough to end up in a large intern program with more than 30 interns. Because the group was so large, I was able to reach out to my peers to learn about what they were doing and figure out if it would be a good fit for a future internship. During my first year, I thought that something in the marketing department would be well aligned with my needs and goals for a future position, but wasn’t sure. To firm up my plans, I asked my friend what her marketing internship entailed and how she felt in her job, and that helped me make my decision.
9. You learn a lot about the industry
This one may seem sort of obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. When I started my internship last summer, I didn’t know anything about the insurance industry. During the 10 weeks I was with National Life, I was able to take online classes and go to seminars to learn about the industry, all at no cost. Additionally, just through working at the company I was able to pick up on a lot of the lingo and basic knowledge of the insurance industry. Although I don’t know if insurance is where I will end up, I can enter the workforce with a better understanding of an important industry and product.
10. You can make some great friends
If you are in a program with at least a few other interns and you take opportunities to spend time with them, you can develop a number of strong bonds with your peers. One of my favorite memories from last summer is going out with my intern project team after our presentation to get dinner and celebrate together. These are people I may not always be physically near (we go to schools on the east coast ranging from The University of Vermont to Eckerd College in Florida) but they are people with whom I have a shared experience and will always be happy to see.