In a recent post on OnlineColleges.net I came across this inforgraphic about the value of paid and unpaid internships.
Although there are instances in which interns are “abused” (in the sense that they end up doing someone’s busy work) I truly believe internships are worthwhile for college students looking to gain experience in their field of study.
There are SO many things that you learn working in an office environment that will not be covered in your coursework, regardless of your major.
I compiled a wonderful list of things that I have learned over the years, thanks to internship experiences. **
- Take Criticism. Something truly valuable you can get out of an internship experience is feedback. For me, I’ve worked mostly in office’s of 40 people or less, so I had lots of face-time with my supervisors. Receiving feedback on press releases and news articles I wrote gave me the opportunity to improve my writing and better understand what professional expectations are for content. The way you might write a paper (frantically, the night before it is due) is not the same way that you should write a web post that represents an entire organization. Also, you know how your peers are likely to go along with the popular idea in a group project or draw a smiley face next to the words “good job” on a piece their editing? Don’t worry, your supervisor will tell the truth even if it stings, but that’s why you’re doing it… to learn!
- Be professional. Let’s be honest, you wear yoga pants and a hoodie to class everyday, possibly even your pajamas (ew). That won’t fly at your internship.
- Answer Phones. This is somewhat embarrassing for me to admit, but the biggest adjustment for me (this summer) was learning to answer phones. In the past, I have sat in my quiet little cubicle and worked in peace. Recently, the expectation has been that the student assistants (e.g. interns) answer the telephones. For me, this meant mastering a complicated phone system (for transferring calls etc.) and learning the first, last, middle and nick names for every employee. It’d be pretty embarrassing to not know who a caller was asking for, right?
- Manage Time. This probably goes without saying, but internships are great for learning time management. Not only do you have to consider the consequences of a Tuesday night out with friends, but also you must chose carefully how you spend your time in the office. It is easy to sit and stare blankly at a screen for 4 hours, but if you want to take on more projects and earn the respect of your supervisor, ask for something to do.
- Make small talk. Other than your professors, how much contact do you have with adults in a college/university setting? Next to none, I am sure. Making an effort to talk with seasoned professionals gives you the opportunity to hone your communication skills, make valuable connections, and learn how to talk-the-talk. After all, the way you talk to your peers is nothing like the way you would talk to senior staff members.
- Be Present. The best advice I can give to interns is: be present. Pay attention to conversations taking place in the office, in the kitchen, on the way out the door, etc. You may learn something.
- Make lunch. It is as simple as it sounds. You know how you roll out of bed for Monday morning class with a cup of coffee in hand, and maybe a bagel? That won’t fly in the real world. Trying to concentrate on an empty stomach is hard. It will affect your ability to work efficiently.
- Sleep. Go to sleep at a normal time. I have worked since I was old enough to: waitressing, cashiering, etc. While it might have been fine to pick at the “family meal” at your local Italian restaurant before a double shift, it will be a struggle without food at the office. Also, walking around like a zombie (functioning on 2 hours of sleep) is not a good look for you.
- Build Your Resume. Let’s face it, today’s job market is DEPRESSING. So, interning gives you a little advantage. Check out the infographic for more info:
**Disclaimer: I have also learned a lot of valuable things at my internships – and created numerous materials for my portfolio. 🙂
I just thought it would be good to point out the OTHER things that having an internship teaches students.
What do you think?
Comment below and share your internships stories & advice. Thanks!
Follow me on Twitter @AESmith03.
Really enjoyed reading this post! I like how you tied in your personal experiences with the infographic.
The United Nations Secretariat has an internship programme (https://careers.un.org/lbw/home.aspx?viewtype=ip), which I believe can offer valuable experience, learning opportunities and social networking.