What Is an Internship and How Does It Work?
Internships offer valuable experience and can be an excellent way to get your foot in the door in a particular field. But what exactly is an internship, and how does it work? Let’s take a closer look at internships and discuss what they are and how college students can get the most out of them.
What Is an Internship?
An internship is a valuable work experience that provides students with an opportunity to explore and develop their professional interests while learning essential new skills. It is a short-term form of employment that is the perfect way to gain real-world experience in the job market, make professional connections, and build a solid resume or CV. Opportunities are available throughout the year, whether you want to intern during an academic term, winter break, or the summer, though internships that occur over school breaks often require the same hours that full-time jobs do.
Do You Get Paid in the Internship?
Internships are not always paid, particularly if the work experience counts as credit toward your degree. However, many internships are paid opportunities. According to Indeed, most Fortune 500 companies pay their interns. Certain industries often offer paid internships, such as advertising, public relations, government, banking, accounting, IT, and fashion.
Internship vs Apprenticeship: What’s the Difference?
One major difference between an internship and an apprenticeship is the time commitment involved. Internships are typically one to three months, while apprenticeships can be a year or more. Graduate students sometimes participate in internships that can last from several months to a year, and the experience is sometimes part of their education.
Apprentices are provided with structured training that focuses on learning specific skills needed by the employer, while interns often fulfill entry-level general office duties. Also, most apprenticeships result in earning an industry credential. Interns might earn some industry experience, but they generally don’t earn a credential.
Benefits of an Internship
We already mentioned some of the benefits of an internship: gaining hands-on experience, making professional connections, and building your resume or CV. But that’s not all. Additional benefits include:
- Possible exposure to a variety of job duties and departments that expand your professional experience and may guide your career goals.
- Opportunities to meet people who could potentially serve as mentors for you, especially if your desired career path aligns with theirs.
- A chance to establish references and earn recommendations to help you in your future job search.
- The potential to be hired into a permanent job at the organization after graduation.
What Are the Disadvantages of an Internship?
While there are many advantages to internships, there are also drawbacks. If you need to earn money, unpaid internships won’t be a good fit for you. It can also be challenging to juggle your academic responsibilities with your work hours, and you may end up sacrificing study time. You may also find that good internship opportunities are competitive, so it can be difficult to secure one.
Types of Internships
Internships can be pretty diverse, so you will likely find opportunities that are a good fit for you. Let’s look at the types of internship opportunities you can expect.
- Paid vs. unpaid: As we previously mentioned, unpaid internships are often completed for college credit, but many companies offer paid internships that pay at least minimum wage and often more.
- College credit vs. non-credit: Internships for college credit are usually arranged between the student and the college and are directly related to the student’s major. Many more internships do not offer college credit, but they do offer valuable work experience.
- Location-based vs. virtual: More companies are offering remote work options, including internships. This opens up more internship opportunities for students, but it can also lead to more competition. Location-based internships are more traditional, and the student gets the experience of working in an office setting and interacting face-to-face with co-workers.
- Industry-related: Students typically look for internships related to their major and career goals. Examples include internships in journalism, finance, law, publishing, marketing, technology, health care, and performing arts. Whatever your aspirations are, you will likely find internships that offer relevant experiences.
Finding an Internship
You can start by speaking to your academic advisor or career services office to learn more about your college’s internship program. Is there a specific organization where you’d like to intern? Bookmark their website’s career page and check frequently for any internship openings.
You can search online job boards—some are even internship-specific. LinkedIn and other social media platforms can be a good source. And don’t forget to take advantage of networking opportunities. You never know where they may lead!
Preparing for an Internship
You’ve aced your interview and scored a coveted internship. Now what? Preparing can help you feel more confident and less stressed, and the first day at your internship will go more smoothly. Here are some tips to prepare:
- Learn the company’s dress code to ensure you have the appropriate clothing. You don’t need to buy a whole new wardrobe, but a few nice, basic pieces are good to start with.
- Familiarize yourself with the commute. If your internship is location-based, make sure you know where you need to go, where you need to park, and how long it will take to get there. Don’t forget to take traffic into consideration. The last thing you want to do is show up late on our first day!
- Review your job description and the company’s history and mission. You want to be able to briefly explain what you do if your co-workers ask—and they will! And becoming familiar with the company’s background makes you look good.
- Remember to bring what you need for your first day. This might include any documents human resources will need, pen and paper for jotting down notes, a sweater in case the office is cold, and a water bottle. And don’t forget to bring your lunch and some snacks!
It’s ok to email or call the hiring manager if you’re unsure about something. They want to make sure you’re as prepared as possible too. Arriving confident and prepared is just one of the ways you can make a lasting impression at your internship.
Making the Most of an Internship
When it comes to internships, you get out of it what you put into it. Come with a positive attitude, listen carefully and take notes, ask questions, and be willing to take on tasks that might be outside of your job description. It’s also important to be open to feedback—it’s an opportunity to grow.
If you take pride in your work, show an eagerness to learn, and act professionally, you’re sure to be a success. Most of all, don’t forget to build relationships with as many of your co-workers as you can, and make an effort to stay connected with them after your internship ends.
On a roll? Learn how to get the most out of remote internships.
It can be a challenge to complete your degree requirements while focusing on an internship that can open doors to your future career. Fortunately, IvyWise experts offer support to college students, from academic advising and tutoring to graduate admissions counseling. Contact us for more information.