7 Internship Benefits You Can't Ignore
Universities and employers often push internship experiences as an important box to check during your education. But it can be frustrating to think of it as yet another thing you have to balance when you’re already dealing with work, school and family responsibilities—and barely getting enough sleep as is.
So why do internships matter so much? How can you justify taking time away from your other priorities to find opportunities, apply and work as an intern?
“When you're in college, it can be hard to find the time to do an internship,” says Bonnie Whitfield, HR director at Family Destinations Guide. “You're busy taking classes, working on papers and projects, and trying to make ends meet. But I'm here to tell you that internships are worth the effort.”
Let’s take a closer look at what makes internship experiences worth working into your schedule.
7 Undeniable benefits of pursuing internship opportunities
1. Relevant experience on your resume
Industry experience on your resume is a huge benefit of internships. Employers want to know that their job candidates can handle working in a professional environment, and seeing that an applicant has already been functioning in that role (regardless of how much they were paid) is very reassuring.
“Internships help you stand out from the crowd when it comes time for job interviews—and that could mean the difference between getting hired and being overlooked,” Whitfield says. She adds that the broader industry exposure you get in an internship will also help you navigate the job search, giving you more ideas about where to apply and how to feature your experience.
Add your internship to your resume, and be prepared to talk about everything you learned when the job interviews come.
Some internships will also turn into longer internship periods or full-time jobs if the company has openings and likes your work. That can be a perfect way to get around frustrating entry-level job experience requirements.
“My internship created great work succession for me on paper,” says Lucyna Polok, content strategist at Europe Language Jobs. “I had experience with an employer for three years even though I was only a year and a half out of college.”
2. You’ll develop practical skills
Part of why internships look good on a resume is the confidence they give employers that you can do the job. No matter how much you study something or how practical your coursework is, there’s nothing quite like working in the field to gain essential skills.
Hands-on experience was a huge benefit for Stephen Green, IT specialist at Computers In The City. “I was able to work on real projects, and as a result, I was able to develop the skills and knowledge I needed to excel in my future career.” Green says he gained important problem-solving and collaboration skills on top of getting a deeper understanding of how to be successful in IT.
Even if your internship doesn’t totally line up with your dream career, transferable skills like critical thinking, teamwork and communication will be valuable wherever you go.
3. You have a chance to test the waters of a career path
“An internship is also a great way to test-drive a career path and get a sense of what the job is like before committing to it,” Green says. You can learn a ton about how different sectors or emphasis areas change a role.
Internships provide an excellent preview of what a career in your field may look like—something that’s not always easy to grasp as a student.
“As a student, it's easy to think about how you want to do things, but it's hard to really understand what that means until you see it firsthand,” Whitfield says. “The internship gave me a chance to get a sense of what it means to work in this field and how someone might go about their day on a regular basis.”
4. Internships can lead to job offers
While it’s not guaranteed by any means, a full-time employment offer can materialize after a successful internship experience. Many employers hire their interns when they can. It’s much easier for them to onboard someone who has already been working in the company and participating in the role than to bring in a brand-new employee.
“The nature of my [internship] position didn’t entirely correspond with my degree, but it helped me guide my career path. I had discovered my dream career,” Polok says. “At the end of the internship, I was offered a full-time position in a job I love at a great company.”
5. Your increased network can lead to job offers
If you don’t walk away from your internship with a job offer, you may still have planted seeds that can bloom into future opportunities.
“One benefit I was surprised to gain from my internship was the opportunity to network with professionals in my industry,” Green says. “I had not realized how valuable it would be to make connections with people who could help me in my future job search.” Some of those connections even led to his first job post-graduation.
The more people you know who may have a connection in the industry that can help you in your job search, the better.
6. Opportunities for mentorship
Mentors are a huge and under-utilized career asset. Someone who can coach you through hurdles specific to your industry, provide deeper insights and connect you to a larger network is a super valuable resource—not just for finding your sea legs, but long after.
“I had an amazing manager,” says Faith Barker, marketing director for Brixbid. Barker adds that her internship manager became a mentor who wrote her recommendation letters and provided counsel long after the experience.
While a mentor in any internship scenario is valuable, you may receive more forthright advice from someone who doesn’t have to balance their employer’s priorities with yours.
“Mentorship is something you should seek from someone outside of your company because they can provide you with feedback on you and your needs, not based on what’s best for the company,” Barker says.
7. Word-of-mouth referrals
“One of the things I was surprised to gain from my internship was a lot of referrals,” Whitfield says. When she moved from her internship position, word-of-mouth referrals from people she’d helped followed her into her next role.
If you are working in a career that involves a client base or provides a service, your internship can be a great way to build up some future clients and start establishing trust in the communities you want to target.
Internships are an investment in your future
Internships might feel like a hazy middle space between school and work, but they are very worth the investment of your time. Even if your internship doesn’t pay or doesn’t pay well, you are investing your work into the benefits listed above.
“My unpaid internship built the foundation for my career,” Barker says. “Without getting my bearings in tech all those years ago, I feel like my experience would be much different.”
“You do have to sacrifice something at the beginning, but you do profit from it in the end – just like an investment,” Polok says.
And a good university program should offer guidance on internships that might fit your career goals. If you take advantage of your school’s career services department, you can get help tailoring your resume, finding opportunities and applying for internships—all of which will further prepare you for the job you really want after graduation.
Check out “ 12 Surprising Student Resources You Didn't Know Rasmussen University Offered” for a bigger picture of the amenities Rasmussen offers students to help them succeed.