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Choosing an Internship

A big part of the internship search is deciding what kind of internship you’d like to pursue. There are a lot of options out there, and you’ll need to do a bit of self-reflection to get an idea of what you’d like out of the opportunity. In fact, the options are limitless if you’re really flexible, so you may even want to narrow that search down a bit by ranking your priorities. Do you need a paycheck for the work you do? Do you have a limited amount of time during the year to tackle an internship? Are you looking for more of a professional development opportunity? Take a look at some of the options you’ll find during your internship search below to get a better idea of what’s most important to you when it comes to applying for your ideal internship.

Paid vs. Unpaid

Despite the cost of college and the cost of making ends meet as a recent graduate, many internships are still unpaid. Whether you can afford such an endeavor is your decision (and possibly that of your parents’), but the pay you get from that experience won’t matter when it comes to padding your resume — the actual experience matters. Students pursuing careers in the humanities, arts, and communications are more likely than other majors to find a slew of unpaid internship opportunities. Unfortunately, you can’t really complain too much about it because there are plenty of college students out there to take your place if you decide not to take an unpaid internship you’ve been offered. Despite the burden on your (and, again, your parents’) finances, many students see any opportunity as a way to get their foot in the door, especially in a competitive job market. If the only opportunities you’re finding are unpaid, consider asking an internship provider whether you can at least get some college credit and save some money that way. Many already do so; some even require that you be eligible for college credit as part of your application.

On the other hand, there are many internships that are paid. You probably won’t get rich off of the experience, but depending on the company or organization, many interns get at least a living wage. Some internships will offer a stipend in the form of payment once a month or at the start and end of an internship; this just means you need to be that much more cautious with your spending habits and managing your money. Others will even offer benefits in the form of health insurance, mileage reimbursements or housing for the period of time you’re interning. You’ll find the most paid internships in the business, technology, science and legal sectors, but don’t assume you’ll need to go unpaid if you’re not pursuing that kind of field of study. There are paid internships out there for every major, although they will be more competitive.

Semester vs. Summer

Deciding on whether you want to pursue a semester-long or summer internship will depend on how much time you have to devote to that internship. If you’ll be receiving college credit from your new employer, it may not set you back if you take a semester off to pursue an internship off campus. If you’re lacking experience but don’t have time to tackle an internship during the regular school year, the summer is a great alternative. Just know that summer internships will be more competitive than those in the fall or spring, as more college students are interested in applying for opportunities when school is out of session and they have more time on their hands. It may also come to a financial decision: If either choice is unpaid, a summer internship may be less painful on your budget.

Internships After Graduation

Seeking out an internship rather than a full-time job after graduation isn’t unheard of. In fact, when the economy’s tough and the job market is more competitive than usual, an internship may be a good way to build up your resume until things pick up again. Maybe you had to work a full-time job during your summers and school years, leaving no time to get experience in your field of study with an internship. That internship may be the only way you determine whether that field is really what you want to be doing for the rest of your life. If you find yourself enjoying your internship placement and see that your internship provider likes what you’re doing for them, it could also be a foot in the door for a future job at the company or organization. Many employers will look to hire in-house before advertising an open position elsewhere, so positioning yourself to be there at the right time isn’t a bad idea.

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