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Creating A Game Plan for Your First Internship

No matter who you are or what you’re interested in, it’s difficult to think about going to college without thinking about what comes after. Your time in higher education is an important period for you to grow, make new connections and experience life from a different perspective, but eventually, college is about adequately preparing you to achieve success in your future career. As a result, internships are becoming more and more crucial as a means to complement your education and secure your professional career. They give you a valuable glimpse into how your chosen field works and what it takes to succeed, and they can show a potential employer you are serious about wanting to be a valuable asset to the company.

So, what is a college internship? Why is it such a big deal? Read on to find the answers.

Career Development

Internships are your way to show your commitment to professionalism, self-improvement, and excellence. They are one of the most important factors in making yourself appealing in the job market. In fact, internships show an employer that you made the most of your education and spent your free time outside of class on experiential learning.

Plus, participating in internships can be a great way to get a taste of the actual professional experience in a particular field before you commit yourself to it fully. “Besides getting a foot in the door with a potential employer and looking good on a resume, internships have other advantages, such as the opportunity to ‘test drive’ a career,” explains Alexander Lowry, professor of finance at Gordon College.

Margaret Stacy-Duffy, an assistant director of career development at North Central College, points to the generalized skills developed in an internship environment. They are what the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) calls the eight career readiness competencies:

These competencies make up, broadly, what you need to have to succeed in any professional setting. Being a college student around experienced employees will help you appreciate and absorb how to carry yourself, be accountable to co-workers, and make valuable contributions in any workplace situation.

A Door for Opportunity

While there’s no easy secret to make yourself stand out, an internship experience is a great start.

According to Penny Loretto, a career counseling professional in Skidmore College, “By doing a great job and completing more than what is required of you in your internship, you will be creating a great impression that can provide a great reference letter at the least and may even … lead to a potential job offer.”

Also, Suchi Musaddi, a professional career coach wrote on LinkedIn that, “A college degree is important to make you capable enough to get a fulfilling and well-paying job, but the skills you develop as an intern make you marketable ... You can develop good work ethics, aptitude, and flexible skills through internships, which is what employers look for.”

Develop Professional Connections

Internships give you invaluable network with employers, mentors, industry experts, and human resource managers which keeps you in the loop of the professional network. For instance, some networking opportunities are as powerful as internships, which introduce you to professionals at all levels and from numerous departments or niches.

These relationships are the foundation of a successful career. They provide guidance, clarity, feedback, and a safe space for asking questions. We all need that kind of navigational guidance early on.

A Great Learning Experience

Good internships and mentors light a spark, giving interns an opportunity to try, make mistakes and learn in a safe environment. They also shape the way young professionals view the world of work and prepare them for their next steps.

From verbal communication to problem-solving and even self-reliance, a variety of skills can quickly be developed through your internship program. Maybe you have had the opportunity to flex these qualities through your college coursework, but they will look a lot different as you transition to the workplace. As an intern, you will have numerous opportunities to practice those skills, and therefore you will discover which skills you still need to develop.

“Fresh out of college, you rarely have anything significant to say in a job interview. No one asks about your accounting class or what grade you got on a group project,” explains Kaitlyn Trabucco, founder of Educents by CoLearn, a parenting marketplace for educational resources. “The best real work experience you can have is in your internship.”

There are multiple reasons why you should do internships while in college. You have the time and resources to know yourself, sharpen your skills and figure out where you belong to. Hence, an internship is a great opportunity to try things out in order to decide what you want from your professional life and adjust your goals if needed.

By Rania Hajji, School of Business Student

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