College is all about freedom. You're at liberty to make more and more profound choices about your life and future. So is there any point to getting an internship if you don't have to? Here are five reasons why an internship is the gift that keeps on giving.
Internships: A Real-Life Classroom
As a college student, you probably feel like you have enough on your plate. Between degree requirements and the social scene, you keep pretty busy. So why use your precious free time for an internship? Here are just a few of the many reasons why it's absolutely worth your while.
Reason #1: Preview Your Future Career
Unless you get a firsthand taste of working in your chosen field, your impression of your future career will be largely based on your professors' reminiscences—provided they personally worked in that field. You may also have some misconceptions about your career choice, especially if you've seen fictionalized versions of it in the movies or on TV. If you're in pre-law, for example, you may discover that working at a law firm is not exactly how it's portrayed on Suits.
The best way to understand what it's like to work in your chosen field is to ''just do it,'' as the ads for a certain famous footwear brand exhort us. You'll be better prepared for your future career if you get a trial run—and, if you find it's not everything you'd hoped for, it's probably not too late to change your major.
Reason #2: Beef Up Your Résumé
Picture this: You've just graduated from college. Your stiffest competition for those elusive entry-level positions is other recent college graduates.
You may have heard that ''entry''-level jobs often ask for 1-3 years' experience. While this may seem like a ridiculous contradiction in terms, ask yourself this question: Who is more likely to get hired—the graduate who successfully completed an internship in the field, or the candidate who completed the curriculum and earned a degree, but had no practical experience?
While your ability to learn is certainly something you'll want to showcase on your résumé, you have to admit that real-life experience can trump textbooks and theory.
Reason #3: Acquire Real-World Job Skills
Think of an internship as money in the bank and your résumé as a bank statement. The résumé gets you in the door by summarizing what you've done and indicating what you can do. The internship itself teaches you useful and practical job skills for the workaday life, like learning to meet project deadlines in a world devoid of extensions from sympathetic professors. Through an internship, you'll regularly interact with multigenerational coworkers as peers—something that's a little less likely in the freshman dorm.
Reason #4: Make Connections
As you spend time in the workplace, your internship gives you the opportunity to get acquainted with professionals in your field. Now's the time to establish a LinkedIn profile and start making connections.
Don't wait until you're job hunting for real after graduation. Get ahead of the curve by establishing your professional online presence now. If you connect with coworkers during your internship, you can ask them for recommendations and endorsements based on the skills you demonstrated at the job site. And while you're at it, take some time to clean up your online social media profiles, so you'll be putting your best foot forward when potential employers check out your digital footprint.
Reason #5: Find a Mentor
Among your job-related connections, you might find someone with the wisdom and experience who's willing to mentor you. Having a career mentor in your field can be invaluable—you might even get the chance to ''shadow'' your mentor on the job, long after the internship is over.
And, of course, if you sufficiently impress your mentor by being trustworthy, helpful, and courteous, he or she will probably be happy to write you an enthusiastic letter of recommendation—which could set you on the path to a satisfying, successful career.
For in-depth information about a wide range of career options, peruse Study.com's Career Planning library, where you can learn about the educational requirements, earning potential, and long-term outlook for various careers. And take advantage of your college years to complete an internship—even if it's not required, it could be essential for your future career success.