Are you still in college and looking to gain hands-on workplace experience? You are not alone. In fact, according to a 2013 survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), about 63% of the graduating class of 2013 took part in an internship, co-op, or both. The word is out, and internships are almost essential nowadays in order to get a job.
The Benefits of Internships
Transitioning from college to career can be intimidating. Many graduates struggle to identify the right career path or find themselves getting lost in the competitive job market. Employers increasingly hire students with internship experience over students who have none. In their survey, NACE found that about 63% of students who completed an internship were offered at least one job after graduation, while only 35% of students who did not complete an internship received at least one job offer. Completing an internship - or several - while you're in school can help you gain an edge on the competition.
Find Your Dream Job
There aren't many people who start school with a 'dream job' already in mind. Internships can help you narrow your professional focus by allowing you to explore different fields and positions. Write down a list of your interests, then meet with your school's career counselor to find out what types of internships may be available in those areas. Try to pursue a couple of different opportunities to get a feel for your options.
Improve Your Resume
Even if you already know what you want to do after you graduate, chances are that your resume isn't a mile long yet. Many recent college graduates have a hard time meeting minimum work experience requirements for jobs they're otherwise qualified to do. Completing at least one internship can help you gain professional experience while still in school and give you something impressive to put on that resume.
Develop Professional Skills
Even though internships mimic jobs in many ways, they're truly about learning. You'll probably earn college credit instead of cash, but you're not free labor - it's your employer's role to give you on-the-job professional training. This can give you the opportunity to practice what you've been learning in the classroom and develop hands-on, practical skills. Employers want to see that you have career-related experience, and this can help set you apart from other candidates.
Network, Network, Network
Making professional connections is a crucial part of getting started on your career path. During your internship, try and get to know as many people working there as possible. Take an interest in those you work with, even if all you have time for is a 'Hello, how are you?' or 'Goodbye, have a great night'. You want to leave a lasting impression on people so that they remember you.
Knowing the right person not only helps you get your foot in the door in most workplaces, it may help you tap into a whole network of professional resources. An internship is a great place to make these connections. If you perform well, your employer may be willing to write you a recommendation and introduce you to other people in the field. Furthermore, your fellow interns and coworkers could one day be your professional peers and may prove to be useful connections. Some lucky interns even find a salaried job at the same place after graduation.