Beginner’s guide to internships

Carolyn Wehde

Carolyn Wehde

Ahoy, thar matey! Keep a weather eye out for an internship, will ya? I’d be much obliged. I be wanting to land that big one for awhile now for I missed me big catch last time ‘cuz danged it all if I didn’t wait ’til the last minute to cast me bait.

For the uninitiated, many students will face that point in their academic career where they must complete an internship to finish their major and eventually graduate. Why do it? It’s not because our professors, college deans, Board of Regents, etc., deem that we should do it for kicks and giggles (although some students dread it like torture). They require internships because it gives us the experience we will need in our future professional careers (and to keep us on an even keel to meet the growing demands of employers).

Internships do five things for us, besides giving us a competitive edge over other job candidates. The five key points of an internship are: observation, contacts, networking, being proactive and evaluation.

By observing we gain inside knowledge of how our field works and we make contacts when we work the professionals and also with other interns who could one day be future co-workers. We would have the opportunity to network not just with our co-workers but also with other professionals at trade shows, company meetings, events, etc.

Being proactive is not only good for the review you’ll get at the end of the internship, but it also helps you in the long run when you help others because it shows you’re willing to work. You can also approach your coworkers and ask questions about the work because they won’t randomly tell you anything. You have to be proactive about it.

Lastly, the evaluation. It may seem scary because it can determine your success (or – hopefully not – your failure). The evaluation really is a great tool because it shows you where you improved, did well or can improve.

Plus, on the flip side, it’s always better to find out in an internship that that career is not the one for you, instead of tackling it as a new job.

However, if you are a junior or a senior, I feel the slightest urge to warn you now: search and apply now! Waiting until early spring almost guarantees that you will be working a boring summer job instead of the internship you wanted. I guess you learn the proactive tip sooner rather than later. Finding an internship can be like trying to find the perfect pair of shoes, reeling in the perfect fish or shooting the deer with the best rack (okay guys, I tried my best to use an analogy you could relate to).

Did I mention that all internships are either paid or unpaid? Yeah, it’s a downer when the internship you want is unpaid (bonus if it is) but, chin up – you’re getting valuable experience, contacts and networking. The silver lining of an internship: some companies hire 80-90% of their interns for full-time jobs once they graduate.

Good luck, matey, may fortune smile on ya and the stars guide ya.