Think back to when you were a freshman in college. What did you think your future vocation would be? I wanted to get involved with youth ministry or worship planning in a church. Well, four weeks ago I graduated with a completely different degree. How did this transformation happen in four years’ time?
College is the perfect time to have an internship — either during the school year or more conveniently, during the summer. During college you are first introduced to your field of study in a classroom setting. Between taking notes, listening to lectures and reading books on the subject matter, you have the opportunity to learn a ton — a ton of facts at least. But most of the time, the most valuable learning takes place on the field. And pairing book knowledge with an internship can be one of the best career-shaping decisions you will ever make.
The summer after my sophomore year I decided to look into reporting and TV journalism. After a random move to Oklahoma City with some friends, I GPSed the nearest station and walked right into NBC News Channel 4. I asked for an application, filled it out on the spot and called back every day for the next week (be persistent!). Before I knew it I was live on their morning show and writing my own news stories. I learned so much that summer — and also decided that maybe reporting wasn’t my calling. But in my classes that coming fall, I understood things better than ever before; textbook concepts were no longer just words on a page. I had seen definitions come to life and could describe how things like The Associated Press worked. And my understanding was created from experience, not memorized jumbo written by someone else who experienced it.
This real-life knowledge helped me choose my classes for the next semester and shaped my professional career path. The next summer, I decided I wanted to try and intern at a Christian organization. I found Focus on the Family’s internships online and nearly applied for every single one. I received a call back because there were a few things that stood out on my résumé: 1) the reporting internship and 2) my study abroad experience. I’m not saying this is how I got the job, but it helps to have experiences on your résumé that make the employer stop and think. Like I have said before, my internship at Focus was life changing and career shaping. It was another experience that directed me in my next stage of life.
Senior year rolled around, and because of my internship at Focus, I chose classes that would enhance the strengths and challenge the weaknesses I discovered during that position. By my last year of college I had a good understanding of where I was going and what my talents were. Had I not spent my summers interning, I would be fresh off the college press and one confused cookie. But now, having had some “real-life” experience, I at least know what type of place I would like to work for and on what talents I can sell myself. This is very important to know as you face interviews and call-backs.
Summing up my experience, here are few reasons why it is important to have internships in college:
- You will gain work experience in your field of interest.
- You will build (and beef up) your résumé.
- You will make great contacts and references for future jobs (networking).
- You will have a better understanding of your interests.
- You may find out this is not what you want to do (better now than after you graduate.)
- You will learn how businesses and organizations work, enhancing your communication skills.
- You will better understand future classes.
- You might not get paid. It’s OK — it’s worth it.
As a graduate looking for a job, I see now how important my internships were. They have guided me to where I am today and provided the work experience many of my peers are lacking. Internships give you an edge that just might land you a job after college. It may be easy to transition back into that part-time job you had in high school, but I encourage you, get an internship. You won’t regret it.
A few more internship pointers:
- Don’t be afraid to call and ask if an organization would consider an intern even if they haven’t advertised for one.
- It isn’t too late to find a summer internship. Even if you have already moved home, call local businesses you are interested in to see if you could even come in a few days a week to help out.
- Don’t be afraid to think big.
- If you land an internship, work hard.
I would love to hear your success stories about how internships during college (during college, people. Don’t jump ahead of yourself; note this is part 1 of a series) helped you discover your calling and illuminated your career path. With the job market the way it is, it is important we challenge those still in college to take advantage of this crucial time in their education.