December 16, 2019
Every college student wants to land their dream job. From the start of their first year to the time they get their diploma at commencement, a student’s most pressing concern is figuring out how their life will look like after graduation. In thinking about post-grad life, it’s easy to picture a highly romanticized version of that dream job. It isn’t too far of a stretch to say that most students would want to hold a senior-level position that pays eight-figures and has them living in cities like Chicago or New York City.
The problem is that most college students won’t rise to the level of an executive until after they have years of experience in their field. Between responsibilities with classes and part-time jobs, students might be at a loss for going about gaining industry skills and hands-on experience. Well, if it’s skills and knowledge a student wants, they need look no further than the internship.
From careers in business to book publishing, internships are common. The best part about them is that they act as a trial period, a kind of “mini job.” Since most internships last between 10 to 12 weeks, a student doesn’t need to fear signing their life away to a full-time position they may come to hate. Internships offer students the perfect opportunity to start to get a feel for their industry of choice. More importantly, an internship provides a space for a student to apply their skills in the real world. Taking classes related to that dream job is great, but nothing beats tackling on-the-job projects and working directly with other professionals.
In a Zety article from 2019, Tom Gerencer looks at how crucial internships are to those looking to make an impression when they start applying to full-time jobs. Gerencer writes that “internships give you inside job knowledge, valuable, relevant experience and networking worth its weight in gold.” Indeed, internships help college students and recent graduates by letting them see the inside of their industry. Even the most specific and advanced classes sometimes give students general information. A student won’t move any closer to getting that dream job until they see a real company in action.
With how specific different groups do their in-house work, a student will be able to better brand themselves as a knowledgeable professional after they’ve spent a few months in the office. All of the experience and connections made while a student works as an intern goes back to Gerencer’s notion of relevance. Maybe a student starts small and works an internship in their home state during their junior year. After they take the time to build their portfolio and connect with people who know others in the business, they will have a better shot at getting hired by more prestigious groups in big cities. During high-stakes interviews, students want to be able to leverage their skills and connections to show potential employers that they stand out from everyone else applying to the position.
While those first or unpaid internships might seem like mere resume builders, they do wonders in allowing students to build their network. Students need relevant skills to make it in their industry. Networking and creating personal connections is a crucial element to landing more competitive jobs. Maybe a student wants to work for groups like The New York Times, Google and Facebook. Achieving a position at such well-known companies requires more than a few years experience and a passion for the industry. An intern can jumpstart their career by being proactive and seeking advice and feedback from their peers and employers.
In a Monster.com article, Daniel Bortz considers the advice of Pulin Sanghvi, who serves as a career director at Princeton University. With regards to engaging with fellow professionals, Sanghvi said that “when people engage with you and offer advice, they become stakeholders in your career success.” Sure, interns can work hard and make a good impression without having to foster that deep of a connection with their employer. However, the interns that do seek out feedback on projects and career advice will set themselves up for success. Any student looking to get that dream job will want a network of professionals on their side. An intern having an established person as a “stakeholder” in their career can make all the difference between making it and missing out on a senior-level position. Just like an intern actively works to benefit their company, the “stakeholders” they have met along the way actively help them advance their career.
Mark Ostermeyer is a junior studying professional writing and English with a concentration in creative writing. When he isn’t in class, you can find him copy editing articles for The State News. Some of his favorite authors include Tom Clancy, David Baldacci and Barbara Kingsolver. In addition, he loves watching and nerding out about shows like Blindspot, The Blacklist, Survivor and Game of Thrones.