By: Felisha Ellison
Every college student has heard the importance of interning. The job market can be unpredictable and prospective openings vary depending on the industry. As a result, well-meaning employers boast about the benefits of grinding at the bottom to gain the necessary work experience needed to compete for a job after graduation. This concept makes sense. Acquiring work experience within your desired career path should do nothing but propel you into the career of your dreams after graduation, right?
While it’s always a good idea to expand your experiences and absorb as much information as possible, it is also important to maintain a prudent eye as you consider prospective internships.
Proverbs 22:3 (TPT - The Passion Translation) “A prudent person with insight foresees danger coming and prepares himself for it. But the senseless rush blindly forward and suffer the consequences.”
I have held more than seven internships over the course of my college career and after graduation. During this time, I’ve learned a lot about the landscape of internships and what an outstanding internship program looks like.
Here are some tips to consider before starting your next internship!
1. What’s In It For You?
Remember that an internship should be a mutually beneficial relationship. As a student, I was often so hungry for the title of ‘intern’ that I focused more on what I would say during the interview than what the interviewer was saying to me. I learned the hard way that not all internships are created equal.
Pay attention to what the interviewer is saying. Ask not only what you can do for the internship, but what the internship can do for you.
Some questions to consider during the interview: What skills am I going to develop during this internship? Will there be a mentor to guide me?
Many internship roles involve a great deal of administrative work, i.e. filing, grabbing coffee for your boss, etc. If you know what you want to get out of the internship beforehand, work with your boss to balance these tasks with necessary skills you’ll need to land your dream job once the internship is over.
If your boss doesn’t initially provide a structured list of learning objectives, you can suggest things that you would like to learn based on your desired goals. A quick Google search of job descriptions in your prospective field can provide insight on the type of experience you should have when entering the work force. The skill set and experience outlined in these job descriptions should be consistent with what you learn during your internship.
If the internship is eligible for college credit, the learning objectives may be outlined by your university. Although, it never hurts to show initiative by researching additional skills that you would like to learn and present them to your hiring manager. This not only shows initiative, but also interest in the role that you are pursuing. It may also help pull you away from the coffee maker for a few hours!
2. Know Your Worth and Add Tax:
I have held a series of both paid and unpaid internships. Of course, remembering my financial struggles as a college student, I favor paid internships. Paid internships are especially useful if you are studying at an out-of-state school as it can help offset some of your cost of living. Attending college is an expensive feat on its own, so the opportunity to be compensated for food, travel, and time (one or all three) can have a lasting impact on your overall well-being as a student.
Not having to worry about how you will get to your internship or how you will eat during lunch will help smooth out some of the obstacles that come with balancing school, an internship, and perhaps a part-time job all at the same time. There are laws in place to help regulate internship pay. The U.S. Department of Labor has a test for determining if an intern should be paid or not. Find it here.
Check your local legislation to learn the specific requirements regarding internships in your city.
If your internship is not paid, look for resources to help supplement your income. If you are a minority looking to intern, you can apply for funding at www.shattertheceiling.co/apply.
Some paid internships are the equivalent of an entry-level position within a company. While this is a strategic budgeting strategy for the business, it can prove to be a disparaging reality for many interns. With this in mind, try to find out if interns are typically hired at the end of the program that you are pursuing. If the internship has a revolving door structure, decide if this will be the right program for you. Depending on where you are in your job search, the structure of your internship can prove to either align with or create a roadblock for your career aspirations. Wherever you are on your internship journey, remember to learn from your experiences and use them to create a better future for yourself.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NIV – New International Version)
3. Do Your Research:
Be diligent in researching your position before starting the internship. Ask a lot of questions during the interview process to avoid confusion and disappointment as a result of unmet expectations.
A great resource for learning the scope of a company from an insider’s perspective is glassdoor.com! With Glassdoor, you can read what other interns and employees have said about their experiences with various companies. Always read reviews with a grain of salt as perspectives may be skewed by an influx of extreme instances. Just know that reviews may also provide some useful insight.
Research the company’s values and mission statement. Decide if they align with your personal values. Review the location, atmosphere, and company culture when you visit the office for your interview and try to get an idea of if this would be a place that you could see yourself working in the future.
Last but what is really first - pray about the role and seek God as to whether or not this is the next step that he is asking you to take in your career. If you feel peace about it, it may be the right door to walk through.
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15 (NIV – New International Version)
Overall, learn all that you can and remain open to new experiences.