By Nancy Bowne
In a job market prioritizing workplace experience, internships are the golden ticket to securing credentials and providing an insight into career interests.
But in reality, many students can’t sacrifice a summer’s income from a retail or restaurant job that’s a convenient distance from their home, leading most to feel conflicted between two options: internship or no internship? Is it worth the risk? Will I gain real-life experience from one over a paid job?
The bottom line is that internships can be worth the risk, and there is always room for learning lessons about the workplace and taking advantage of your own merit. Through any job, you can learn invaluable life lessons and gain a strong work ethic.
So how can an unpaid internship benefit you? Here are some things to consider on how to optimize your internship, advocate for yourself, your skills and your own time management.
Take your chances earlier. When I began my observation hours for speech language pathology as a freshman, I discovered that I didn’t like the pacing and schedule of working in a rehabilitation hospital. Getting insight into this earlier on helped me make a switch into international studies and differentiate likes and dislikes.
It’s also necessary to recognize that some majors can offer multiple different workspaces. Therefore, by taking chances earlier, you can learn valuable skills and expectations on how you best work through these internships.
So it doesn’t perfectly relate to your major. Who cares? Your life far extends beyond which classes you take. In my next internship, I will be working at a public relations firm. During my interview, the president of the company commented that he appreciated interns with different backgrounds other than communications, because it brought a new outside perspective.
Work experience — regardless of the industry or occupation — can expand your horizons and provide insights into a new concentration. Everything is related and makes you a more employable, well-rounded individual.
While there are obstacles and challenges in any internship, these tasks can build your credibility and insight into how you want to create your career after college. Sometimes students can get taken advantage of in unpaid positions, but it’s important to recognize the work you bring to the table and to yield the respect you deserve.
After all, every internship is a learning opportunity. When you host meetings, make sure you have an agenda and keep the conversation rolling. You might be thrown into a task you know little about. But take advantage of the learning curve and see what you can bring to the table. As always, it’s necessary to be transparent and confident in your work.