The following was a contribution post to the Colorado State University – Global Campus blog. Read along here, or visit the University’s blog and read it there
How do you gain experience with no experience? How can you embark on your new career before you graduate? An internship.
That seems to be the mentality these days. No matter where you turn in the job market, you are being bombarded with information on internships. The best ones, the worst ones, the legalities, and enough statistics to fill a textbook. There are countless websites dedicated to helping degree-seekers find their perfect fit, and even more that paint an internship as a golden ticket to a dream job.
While it’s true that an internship can most definitely land you a job with your dream company, I believe that internships have an even more valuable outcome.
This asset is worth more than a good resume, and some say it is worth more than your industry experience:
Internships can provide you with connections and a professional network.
Internships are much like gluten-free foods or adult coloring books: some people swear by them, while others think they are not worth the hype. For many internship fans, the proclaimed positive qualities surrounding internships can take on a one-dimensional point-of-view, that an internship will:
- Improve your resume
- Get you a great job
- Make you a millionaire
…the promises go on and on. However, being truly successful in any industry means helping others and forming connections that enable you to contribute to the bigger picture.
You have to learn from the best before you can become the best. What if we viewed internships not as golden tickets to a dream job, but as golden tickets to a VIP party with industry leaders?
Participating in an internship gives you the opportunity to be recognized for more than just your skills as a potential employee. More importantly, it puts you in contact with people who recognize your passion to learn, and motivation to be a part of their industry.
While it is true that being an intern may sometimes give you an overflowing plate of assignments, it also has the ability to expose you to people whom you may never have met in a regular job.
Your internship will eventually end, but the relationships you form don’t have to.
Getting the most out of your internship doesn’t mean completing as many projects as you can. It also means connecting with established role models in your industry and having a willingness to learn from them.
After all, many of them were in your position at one point or another.
The next time you’re looking for an internship, don’t pass one up just because it pays too little (or nothing).
Sometimes those are the internships that truly value your help, and can provide access to people who can grow your career in more ways than dollar signs. Unpaid internships can also be more flexible and understanding when it comes to your time, which is always a plus for those that are balancing school, work, and everything in between.
Being a student at CSU-Global, you already recognize the value of academic knowledge and attending a university. When done correctly, internships can be a kind of career university with social perks of meeting your industry’s celebrities.
Although an internship might not always pay you in the traditional sense, it can most certainly pay off in connections and experience.
…and that, my fellow CSU-Global friends, can be worth more than gold.