Over the weekend I had the opportunity to attend a college friend’s wedding. During that adventure there were many stories shared among friends about the good old days and what has happened to all of us since graduation. Babies, kids, new jobs, new homes – it is always interesting to see where everyone ends up in life and how some choices we make can have such a huge impact on our future. Maybe it is my recruiting background tinting my lens a bit, but to me, one thing is for sure. If you get a good education and a good foundation, you are setting yourself up for success. What you do with that opportunity is up to you from there.
Every week, I have the good fortune of being able to interview individuals for opportunities with our company. It is always interesting to hear what different candidates have to bring to the table in terms of skills, abilities, knowledge, and experience. Seasoned career professionals generally have no problem sharing with you how their robust background aligns with what you are looking for. Sometimes the hardest decision in those cases is figuring out who has the best skill set. Early career professionals, on the other hand, often struggle to bring much relevant experience to the table. They may have a little business experience here and there but overall lack substantial hands-on exposure to daily work and tasks that they can effectively articulate into a well framed response. This is where the importance and power of an internship comes in.
I liken finding the right internship to finding the key to opportunity. With the right one you can have countless options in the future. You may be reading this thinking – but I’m done with school, this doesn’t apply to me. But wait – it may. Do you have kids, friends with kids, neighbors, or acquaintances who will be heading off to college sometime? Then read on for some advice to share.
Internships come in all shapes and sizes. They can be paid or unpaid, full or part time, in your major or arbitrary, challenging or not. So what does the right internship look like? There are no wrong internships, but there are some that are definitely better than others in terms of setting you up for success. When deciding on an internship there are many things to consider. What tasks will you do? Who will you work with? Are there opportunities for employment with the company post-graduation? Will you be paid?
Internships can give you a window into the world of work. They should provide you with a good foundational knowledge of a company, a strong picture of what a future job in that line of work would be like, and some great hands-on experience to build on in the future. They may include a series of projects or work experiences that build in complexity over the weeks in the role. You might gain experience in presenting to leaders of the company. You may be diving into day to day tasks which are similar to those of your full-time peers. All in all you should walk away from it feeling like you really grew and were able to relate what you learned in school to what you were tasked with. You should also come away with a great network of connections in the business community that you can look to for guidance and support for years to come.
I always find it disappointing to hear from students about past internships where they spent their time fetching coffee and making copies. Although a fancy title and the company name on your resume may look great, these types of opportunities will not prove to be as valuable of an experience. So before you sign on the dotted line make sure you do your homework.
- Research the company and their website
- Ask questions of the interviewers about what you will be doing
- Inquire on the corporate culture
- Ask questions about future opportunities
- Understand what the role is currently and what may or may not be different about it if you were hired post-graduation
You should be interviewing the company for a fit just like they are interviewing you. All of these things are critical to finding the proverbial key to opportunity. What door you unlock with that key and where you go from there is up to you.