Five Reasons Why Interning is Better Than Doing Nothing
With unemployment likely to remain well above normal levels for some time to come, it's more important than ever to gain new skills, experiences and contacts as part of a long-term career strategy. It's also harder than ever.
No matter how far out of college you are, interning can be a great way to get your foot in the door in your industry or company of choice—and while the pay may be low, it's definitely more productive than sitting around catching up on your Netflix list.
A few benefits to consider:
You’ve heard this one before. In today’s economy, job boards are a black hole for resumes--without personal contacts at the company, you’re never going to get an interview.
While networking events can seem like an attractive option, they also usually cost money to attend, can be socially painful, and are usually full of other people seeking to do exactly the same thing as you: find a job. Why pay money just to make standing out from the crowd that much harder?
By interning, you’ll add a company’s worth of names to your LinkedIn contacts almost instantly. That translates to references, friends of friends, mentors. In short: a network! Make an effort to meet everyone, and offer to lend a hand to those whose jobs interest you.
Tip: A great conversation starter: “Need help with anything?”
2. A Foot in the Door
You have one major advantage over all the other candidates once an appropriate job opens up at your company: a track record.
Internships reveal how well you work with others, and whether you’re reliable, punctual, and emotionally stable. They’re also demonstrative of attitude and work ethic. A resume? Impressive though it may be, it can’t tell HR these things.
Thus, if you’re qualified to do a job that opens up, a hiring manager may be willing to look at you first. It’s time efficient and has more predictable results than diving into the slush pile. Plus, they’ve got a whole host of people they can check in on you with. That’s a good thing if you’ve been doing your work well and not sneaking in too late—so be on your best behavior.
3. Less Responsibility
Just to be clear: no one is recommending that you be cavalier about your internship. It’s important to take the work seriously and seize every opportunity for learning and building a body of experience—especially if you’d like to work for the company some day.
But that being said, there’s a certain freedom attached to a job that you’ll likely only be doing for three months. Savor it.
If all goes to plan, you’ll have a full time job soon enough, which leaves plenty of time for all the unpaid overtime, annual performance reviews, and mandatory corporate events you can stomach.
So while an internship provides a chance to shine, it’s also a great chance to leave on time and stay home on weekends. You can kill yourself at work when you’ve got a 401(k).
4. It’s a Career Fitting Room
Internships, just like the dressing rooms at Bloomingdales, show you the hard truth about your choices. Yes, they can be time consuming and make you question yourself, but they allow you to cut your losses early—and without a receipt.
How else do you learn which skills come naturally, which type of management you thrive under, or which kind of boss intimidates you? Of course, you do all that at a full-time job as well, but nobody wants a bloody trail of quittings behind them.
A certain amount of trial and error is vital to finding a great career fit—why not test things out in the shallow end before venturing into deeper water?
5. It's Not Free Labor—It's Free Training
Assuming you're interning in a company you'd actually like to work for, your coworkers should be your role models. They’re doing exactly what you want to be doing, and they’re continuing to work because they’re excelling.
Since your responsibility level is likely low (see item 3), consider it 60% of your job to watch these people. Listen while they speak to clients, or give bad news to your boss. Absorb their work habits and mannerisms. Pick up on their vocabulary.
Surrounded by good examples, you’ll likely find yourself evolving naturally. But make an effort at emulating your higher ups, and you may just project that know-how at your next job interview.
Interning is not an effort-free venture: it takes time, energy, and a certain amount of pride swallowing. But the rewards can be great—the position itself or a friend you make can lead to a job, while the overall experience can round out a resume or fill an employment gap.
And even if it doesn't pay, gaining sharp skills, current experience, and fresh contacts are an investment you can't go wrong in making.