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Internships as Career Experience

You’re probably not on the hunt for internships just because you want something different to do than going to class or hitting the library. The main reason college students (and beyond) apply for internships is to get some career experience under their belts. Internships also aren’t just for students anymore: When you’re exploring new fields or the job market’s more competitive than usual, an internship could the answer to a lack of experience or lack of job opportunities. Whether the internship is paid or not, an internship should be an automatic entry on your resume, and depending on the opportunity, could be a way for you to get your foot in the door of your ideal position. Check out the information we provide below for internship-seekers from all points in their career — college students, career changers and recent graduates — to learn more about how an internship can help build your career experience.

A Resume Boost

The most obvious benefit of a traditional internship is what it’ll do for your resume. It can be tough to find applicable experience in your field of study while you’re a college student. You have a lot of responsibilities to juggle, including balancing your academics with work to help cover your college costs. Many internships then target college students to give them the needed experience they need before they graduate and start looking for jobs. Your best bet is to treat your internship as seriously as you would a job, and treat your internship provider as you would an employer. While you are there to learn as much as you can about the field of study you’re interested in, you’re also there to be helpful to your internship provider and other staff who depend on interns. Make the most out of the experience as you would any position and you’ll find you may have more responsibilities than you thought to report on your resume.

Internships may also serve the purpose of turning an intern off of a particular career, as you really don’t know whether you have a passion for a field of study before you get some experience in that field. Use that internship to make your resume impressive, but also consider the experience a try-out for your chosen field of study. As an internship is likely the first time you’re exposed to your intended career in a professional setting rather than an academic capacity, you may find yourself considering other options at the end of the experience. That’s fine. Explore other options with new internships, and consider it a blessing that you didn’t find out that you disliked a career choice as an entry-level employee in that field of study.

An Option for Career Changers

If you’re unhappy in your current career, there’s no reason you shouldn’t consider switching careers and exploring fields of study that might make you a happier employee. So what’s stopping you? A lack of experience may, for one. Internships are also useful among career changers who may not have the experience required for even entry-level positions in the industries they’d like to switch to. Although you probably won’t make as much money as you did in your former career (if you’re paid at all), that internship will be important in providing you the training and skill set you’ll need to be competitive with others who may have studied in that field while in college. While you may not have the luxury of an on-campus career center linking you with multiple internship opportunities, you shouldn’t be shy about contacting your alumni networks about potential internships. You're not the first career changer out there and there are many others out there like you willing to help you in your search. If you’re looking to get involved in a professional group in your new intended field, that may also be a good way to find internship opportunities, even if they are informal and created on a more independent basis.

The Answer to a Tough Job Market

Internships are typically considered a way for college students to pad their resumes and to make themselves more marketable post-graduation. But when the economy’s struggling or the job market is more competitive than usual, an internship can be a good way to continue gaining experience if you’ve had a tough time landing your first full-time job. If you’re lucky enough to have paid internships at your disposal, it may not even be that big a financial burden to apply for and land internships while you’re still looking for other jobs. While a tough economy may also make the internship market more competitive, if you treat the internship search as seriously as you would a job search, you may have the advantage over those still in college. You have the drive and life experience, and are able to boast flexibility and compromise that someone still in school may not be able to. And who knows? The internship you score may lead to a full-time job down the line if you make the most of the experience!

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