You’ve just finished up your freshman year of college, and you’re looking forward to a break from all things school-related for a bit. While you’ve certainly earned some time off, you could be missing out an opportunity that could pay off in big ways down the road.
Let’s face it. Once you have finished college, you’ve got two things to do:
1. Celebrate! You’ve earned it.
2. Get a job.
Now, it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that work experience is a pretty good way to land a post-college job. And how do you get that relevant work experience that will make the hiring manager’s mouth water?
One word: internships.
But that’s not the only reason interning in college is going to be worth your while…
1. Learn how to work
Let’s face it. College teaches you how to think, not how to work…that’s where internships come in. Take internships as a way to learn the ropes of your future career and to be able to do your work that much better when it comes time for you to graduate college and enter the workforce!
Want to be a fashion designer? Try getting a gig with Ralph Lauren. Get advice from your new co-workers about starting a career in fashion by finding out how they got their start. Look for ways to show off your talent, embrace the boldness of your peers, and perfect the basic skills that a designer has to have. Then, you’ll be sure to pick something up that will make you more marketable when it comes time to apply for a position there.
Want to be a politician? Look for place on your state Senator’s next political campaign. You may end up spending a LOT of time making copies and poring over letters from constituents, but if you’re paying enough attention, you can also learn a lot. Find a mentor – someone who has worked campaigns before and can help you throughout the experience. Be prepared to assume the life of someone in politics as well. People in D.C. say there is no such thing as a 9-to-5 for good reason! This is a perfect way to figure out if you can manage the work schedule this sort of job demands.
2. Get Solid References
What’s one great way to convince a future boss of what you are capable of? Having one of your former employers sing your praises.
The worlds of fashion, politics, etc. are smaller than you think, and the boss at your internship may be able to put in a good word for you when your trying to land a job with one of her colleagues. The heads of today’s large campaigns likely interned together back in the day. The leaders in the fashion industry get to know one another through the events they put on together. The point is – having a contact in the industry who can speak to your work is a HUGE advantage.
Your good grades and shiny diploma will prove that you are capable of the work, but the support of someone in the industry will prove that you’ve done the work and you’ve done it well!
Applying to graduate school? Same deal! You may be able to get helpful letters of recommendation from the job.
3. Boost Your Resume
Sooner than you think, you’ll have a fancy bachelor’s degree to show employers, buuuuut so will all of your friends. Not only will everyone else applying for jobs have a bachelor’s degree, but some will have graduated from the most elite universities in the country. What will set you apart?
You’ve guessed it! Work experience – the stuff you put on your resume!
That’s where internships can be worth their weight in gold. Internships prove to employers that you are actually interested in what they do and when put to the test, you can actually do the work they need to get done!
The job market is brutal, and you need every advantage you can get so that you can find yourself gainfully employed after graduation. Good grades, test scores, and enthusiasm just aren’t enough anymore.
Even more, interesting job experiences can make up for lackluster grades and test scores. Who would you hire? The kid with a 4.0 and no work experience or the one with a 3.5 who interned for you last summer?
Yes, your boss may be able to help you down the road, but don’t count out all the other people you interact with during your internship. The other people you meet through the position may also be able to help you in your job search, whether by passing your name along to one of their colleagues or letting you know about a new job opening. Everyone says, “90% of jobs are never even advertised.” Networking through your internship is how you find out about those positions.
How exactly do you network? Have business cards on hand to exchange with people that you meet through the job. Once you’ve made some contacts, it’s a good idea to set up informational interviews with people doing work that interests you – these interviews can put you in touch with even more people in the industry. Follow up with your new contacts. Shoot them an email after the meeting with a copy of your latest publication or the like. Try to maintain a relationship with the contacts you build and make them aware of your professional goals.
At best, your efforts will help land you a sweet job! At worst, you will simply meet some interesting people in your future career field.
5. Explore career options!
Maybe you don’t even know what you want to do after graduation let alone during your time off during college. Internships can help you figure that out. Interning is a low-key way to explore a possible career path and figure out if it’s actually right for you.
Besides, lazing around the house gets old eventually. Why not use your breaks from school to get a leg-up in the job search after graduation, meet some interesting people, and maybe even make some money?