Did you take an internship in college?
One of the most important things I’ve learned in life is the need to seize opportunities when they appear. College internship opportunities are not much different. Four years ago, just before I was ready to graduate university, one of these opportunities popped up – the chance to spend three months working in my field of study in an internship position.While the initial thought of working for three months, unpaid, was a bit depressing, I realized that doing so would ultimately help me land my dream job down the road.
The internship processes was quite simple – I was responsible for reaching out to local companies seeking interns, and attempt to secure an interview, and ultimately an internship position. While a lot of other students set their sights on the larger more ‘prestigious’ companies, I went a different route, and went after smaller ones, as I wanted to have the broadest experience possible. To me, being a part of a smaller team would force everyone (including an intern) to wear more hats, thus, allowing for a variety of tasks and responsibilities.
After interviewing at a couple different companies, one of them offered me the position, and I accepted.
My internship started off fairly easy – the first couple weeks were focused on reading up about the company’s services and clients. This allowed me to better understand their business environment and ask a lot of questions, while expanding my knowledge outside of the classroom. Shortly thereafter, the company landed a major project requiring a very tight turnaround. Instantly, I was thrown into the middle of it and was given the chance to prove myself. At that point, the days instantly became much longer – instead of leaving at 5, we were staying until 9 every night to meet a deadline. I didn’t mind, as this is was part of my career path. After several weeks of hard work, the project was finally complete, and turned out to be a huge success. Not only did I get to see a major project from start to finish, I was able to make it focus of my resume. At that point, I seemed to have “proved” myself, and was given a variety of other projects for the remainder of my internship – all of this, allowed me to build my skill set further.
When I reached the end of my internship,I had a decision to make – do I thank them for the time and try to pursue my dream job, or do I ask for the chance to stay on as a paid employee? Before even making up my mind, my boss ended up offering me a full time position. While the job in itself was very junior, with low pay and long hours, it was ultimately a job that would look great on a resume. I ended up accepting her offer – and before I even graduated school, I had secured myself a job that would help solidify my career path.
I was then able to save some money to start an online business.
The internship experience ultimately proved to be extremely valuable to me – not only did I land a job out of it, I got to be a part of a wide range of projects which allowed me to build up both my resume and my professional network. All of this was because I seized the opportunity several months prior.
Looking back on my internship experience, several years later, there are a few important pieces of advice when taking on a challenge such as this:
Look for broad companies.
When seeking an internship, look for companies that offer the broadest range of opportunities within it, rather than just a fancy or “fun” company.
Enjoy the experience of an internship.
No internship is ever “perfect” and some tasks and assignments are just going to suck. Grin and bear it, and chalk it up to a learning experience – this is true even when you’re being paid.
Network your butt off.
Get to know your coworkers as they bring a wealth of experience to the table, and are usually more than happy to share – most of which, will be directly related to your career path too! Plus, they probably have a network of connections that could prove valuable in landing your next job. This is the best way to make money and pay off debt.
Keep asking questions – any company that takes on an intern is more than happy to provide guidance, advice and feedback. The more engaged you are, the more valuable you become.
Leave with a good reference – even if you hated it, make sure your company knows you valued the opportunity and learned something. This reference can easily make the difference between landing a job or not.
This was a guest post from Twenty Something Money.