Why a College Internship is Important–Even If You Don’t Realize It Now.

February 2018

I’ve been where you are at when it comes to internships. Perhaps you are a sophomore looking for career opportunities or a senior wanting to put real-world experience on your resume before graduating.

I started out as a student with a desire to pursue a career in media, but needed experience. What I remember at the time was questioning: “Is an internship worth it?” and “What will I gain from this work experience?”

I think many college students question whether the commute, workload, or taking 10-30 hours a week away from other college experiences are worth taking on an internship.

Even though the reasons may not have been apparent to me at the time, internships are vital to your future career… here’s why.

Internships Provide Tangible Experience for Portfolios and Resumes

Walking into an internship for the first time can be strange; you have no idea what to expect, what you will be doing, or how it will pay off.

That strangeness is soon replaced with comfort as you develop a routine, get the lay of the land, and gain valuable skills. The proudest moment I had at each internship was coming home on my last day and looking at my folder full of clips of press releases I drafted, articles I wrote, or social media plans I developed.

Always take detailed notes of what you learned at your internships and make copies of the work you completed as well. These pieces were crucial for my future job search where I had to show concrete evidence of my knowledge and experience.

The Connections Made During Internships Are Invaluable to Future Opportunities

Not knowing your co-workers at the beginning of an internship can be intimidating. No one knows you, which gives you a blank canvas to start making a name for yourself, while still wanting to feel liked and included immediately.

Sure, I may not have known anyone, but I went in with the intention to do well and the notion that the people I meet would not just be fleeting people in my life.

To this day, I take the opportunity to keep in touch with all those who I worked with and interned for, whether it is for a birthday, holiday, or just saying “Hi.”

Many of these emails lead to a reply with a job posting or a statement saying, “I saw this opportunity and thought of you.” This means they not only thought enough of me to believe I could fulfill the job listed, but that we created enough of a lasting working-relationship where I am top of mind when the opportunity presents itself.

Make sure to always keep in touch with those you worked with because they can be your biggest cheerleaders.

Each Internship Can Help You Achieve New Levels in Your Career Goals

Before interning in college, I had some experience writing for The Warren Reporter and The Express-Times on a freelance basis as well as being editor-in-chief for the Warren County Community College newspaper. That writing experience helped me attain my first internship at Centenary’s public relations office, where I gained even more writing skills to secure my next internship at Success Communications doing both public relations and social media work. After that, I used all of those combined experiences in my post-graduation roles as Social Media Director for an online women’s magazine and Public Relations Coordinator for a cancer foundation.

There are always connections to what you have done in the past and what you want to do in the future. Use these experiences and build upon them as you intern and move up in your career.

Internships Can Gauge Strengths, Weakness, and Future Goals

I walked out of my second college internship realizing “I went into these internships looking for public relations experience, but I enjoyed the social media work more.”

Internships are not always meant to show you that you are on the right track, they sometimes show you that your interests are elsewhere. This should not be a moment to think badly of yourself, but to use that knowledge to make your next career move.

A Quick Look at Internships After College

Internships while in college are integral to your growth as a student and future applicant to jobs, but what about interning after college?

Many times, internships will still be made available to recent graduates, and I find this to be wonderful. It allows you extra time to gain more skills if you are not ready to commit to a full-time job and can be a great way to shift gears if your college internships showed you that you want to embark on a different career path.

After college, I took an internship in marketing. I never took a marketing class in my life, but the company enjoyed my willingness to learn and took me on. I gained new skills in paid marketing, search engine optimization, and Google Analytics.

Flash-forward four years and the company I interned for is my first and longest standing freelance client. Had I just assumed internships were meant for college students and walked away, I would not have had this opportunity for myself years later.

Ultimately, I decided I wanted to learn more after college and wasn’t ready to commit to a job just yet. I took a leap of faith and landed firmly on the ground years later. Don’t feel bad about not being ready after college and know that after-college internships are a viable career choice.

Now as an alumnus with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Centenary University and a full-time freelancer, my goal is to let you know that it is normal to question internships, but you should also understand that they are a vital part of career advancement.

If this blog has lit a fire under you, then make your way to Centenary University’s Career Development Center to learn more about internships. I know the office made all the difference in my career and I hope it does with yours.

— Sarah DeGeorge
    Centenary Alum