I began a college mentorship through my campus internship program the fall of my senior year. My only regret was not taking an internship sooner. Internships are an invaluable experience that will provide hands-on experience in your field of study, help build your resume, and your confidence going into “real world” of jobs, rent, and bosses.
Here are a few pros and cons of the college internship:
Pro – Networking
No matter if you’re studying English lit or nuclear physics knowing people in your field is essential. You will already know some people from your classes and major, plus a few professors in your department, but branching out of the university is necessary to post-college success. Look up your local internship program. Most colleges have a program that links alumni to undergrad for a mentoring type relationship. Being able to meet someone who actually has the career you are training for is a valuable asset. Pick their brain for knowledge. Ask them to tell you secrets of the trade and advice they wish someone would have told them when they were in college. Once you graduate, you will already know professionals in your field.
Pro – Hands-on Experience
If you are studying English, Journalism, or Creative Writing getting an internship at a publication allows you see the heart of the company. Take the opportunity to sit down on some weekly planning meetings and see how staff writers pitch their ideas and don’t just sit quietly if you have something smart and relevant to say chime in. Remember journalism isn’t for the faint of heart. Whatever your career path is, jump into with both feet, you will always learn more from immersion than just sitting through dry lectures.
Pro – Money
Some internships pay money. Yes, you can prepare for your job and get paid to do so. This is an excellent opportunity to build your resume and pocket some cash for spring break. Many times, the experiences working for the organization is your paystub. Do some research while applying for your internship and find what places are paying their interns and how much money they earn. Glassdoor.com is an excellent site for researching pay scales of prospective internships.
Con – Time
Internships take a lot of your time. Most students already have a full-time class load, a job, and a social life. When you take on an internship, forget about free time, you won’t even have time to sleep. Believe me, my senior year I had a mentorship at a local magazine and an internship at my college literary journal. Thankfully I loved both positions, but between studying for classes, a social life, and time at the gym, I had no downtime. I also barely got enough sleep and developed a nasty caffeine habit.
Con – Lack of Money
Most college internships won’t pay. They pay in experience, which is great for your future but if you have car payments, rent, or bills to pay “experience” just isn’t going to cut it. My advice is to try to find an internship that allows you to work on your own time. Maybe an editing internship will let you check in with the head editor but will enable you to do most of your work around your school/work schedule.
Con – Menial Work
Each internship is unique. Some are great and provide ambitious young workers with a place to shine, others have college students fetching their donuts, making paper runs, and ordering their decidedly specific orders at Starbucks. There is no doubt you are at the bottom of the totem pole of office rankings as an unpaid college intern. However, when my mentor first gave me a list of things I would do on the job she said “You won’t be carrying our coffee, we don’t do that here” I was overjoyed.
There are many, many reasons why a college internship is a valuable experience. It allows you to put your work shoes on and explore the career you’re studying instead of just memorizing slides in class. You will meet people and network with your future job’s community. You will be able to write on resumes that you actually did something in college besides going to frat parties.
Overall, I suggest you try an internship, what’s the worst that could happen?
Feature image via @theinternmovie