An internship is an amazing opportunity to gain on-the-job skills and experience while you’re still in college. But with the array of internship opportunities available – some paid and some unpaid – how do you choose the perfect opportunity for you? Here are the top five things you should look for in an internship.
1. Workplace Environment
Would you like to work in an environment that’s full of energy and fast paced, or would you prefer a more predictable, conservative work atmosphere? Regardless of what type of atmosphere you prefer, your workplace environment should be comfortable and conducive to learning.
You can size up the work environment of a potential internship in a variety of ways. First, check out the company’s website (if there is one). How the company presents itself on the Web could give you clues to the work environment. For example, if the tone of the website is very professional and corporate in nature, you can probably expect the same of the office atmosphere. Also, check for the company’s presence on social networking sites like LinkedIn™, Facebook®, YouTube® and Twitter®. The information presented here also may help you gain a better feel for the nature of the work environment.
The interview is another great time to gather information about the company’s workplace environment. Just as the company is evaluating your skills for a good fit, this is your opportunity to evaluate whether the company’s work environment is right for you. And don’t be afraid to ask questions about the work environment during your interview. Some employers may even be willing to let you speak with an intern or employee to gather more information.
2. Positioning You for a Successful Career
While there are many reasons to pursue an internship, usually the primary goal is to gain knowledge and experience that will position you for a successful career.
Employers generally place the most value on internships that offer relevant work experience. For example, if you’re pursuing a degree in Internet marketing, an internship that gives you experience working on email marketing campaigns could potentially give you an edge over other applicants in your field. Likewise, the stature of the organization you intern for could play a role in your future job search. An internship at a company that is well known for the career you are pursuing can have a positive impact on your resume and future career opportunities.
Use your interview as an opportunity to gather information about the specific job duties you’ll be performing during your internship. If any of these duties seem out-of-sync with your career goals, you’ll want to carefully evaluate if it’s the right internship for you.
3. Wide-ranging Experience
Gaining a wide range of experiences during your internship is a great way to position yourself for career success. Not only will this prepare you to handle the many facets of your career, employers also take notice of candidates who’ve performed an array of career-related tasks during an internship.
Ideally, an internship should allow you to take on multiple responsibilities that relate to your career path. For example, if you’re pursuing a paralegal career, your internship should offer you opportunities to perform research, conduct client interviews and prepare legal documents, as well as other paralegal duties. When you’re interviewing, don’t hesitate to ask about the specific responsibilities you can expect to perform during your internship.
4. Relevance to your Degree
An internship that’s closely related to your degree program will allow you to practice all of the concepts you’ve been studying in college. This real world experience, coupled with your college degree, will translate into valuable knowledge and on-the-job skills that employers are looking for.
Your college instructors can help you determine if an internship is relevant to your degree. You also should ask specific questions during your interview to ascertain if the internship will offer you skills that apply to your degree.
5. Opportunities for Full-time Employment
An internship has the potential to turn into a full-time career opportunity after graduation – but only if there are positions available at the company where you’re interning.
To assess whether there will be career opportunities following your internship, take a look at the careers page of the company’s website to see if there are any open positions. When interviewing for the position, ask if there is an option to transition into a permanent position following your internship or if a full-time position will be available in the near future.
An internship is a great way to gain real world career experience while still studying for your degree. Though selecting an internship can be a challenge, these five tips should make the process a little less daunting.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Margaret Cook is a Camps Director for Rasmussen College at the Tampa/Brandon, FL college campus. She has worked in the field of business operations management for over 30 years. Ms. Cook also has a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Miami, and a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Florida International University. She has managed large-scale operations centers for prestigious companies such as The Walt Disney Company, Capital One, AOL, and Progressive® Insurance.