To a student working toward their dream career, internships are like the master key to the doors of success. They give you the experience you need on your resume, they introduce you to useful connections, and they teach you skills you can’t learn in a classroom. It’s definitely a tough task trying to start a career right out of college, so gaining as much internship experience as possible is essential.
With such a tough job market out there, we’re often left in a panic about whether or not we’ll get all the experience we need. Therefore, we’re sometimes willing to jump into any internship opportunity presented to us. Just because you’re starting at the bottom of the job totem pole, doesn’t mean you don’t get to be picky. Keep in mind: it’s your future that you’re building.
Listen. We’re not saying to decline an internship offer just because it wasn’t exactly what you had hoped for. We’re just saying to follow some guidelines so you choose the absolute best option for you.
Research job descriptions.
It’s a good idea to become familiar with the tasks you’ll be expected to do once you’re on your own in the real world. Think about the ideal job title you want to achieve out of college and the companies you would love to work for. Then, research job descriptions for relevant entry level positions. This will give you a sense of the kinds of responsibilities you’ll need experience in before your first real job search. Make sure to find out whether or not you’ll learn these skills at the internships you’re offered. If there isn’t any common ground, then it won’t help you get to where you want to be.
However, it’s okay to try different things.
If you’re not sure exactly what kind of job you want right out of college yet, that’s okay. Try to find something that overlaps your interests. For example, maybe you’re interested in doing public relations for a big agency but you also kind of want to do event planning. An internship in a PR agency with clients that host big events is a good start. If at the end of the internship you realize you loved being involved in the events but hated being in a PR agency environment, at least you now have some event-planning experience to go into your next internship with.
Find out if it’s even legal.
Did you know that some internships out there aren’t even legal?
In the movies we often see scenarios where unpaid interns are nothing but the coffee guy or an overworked personal assistant. Unfortunately, this doesn’t just happen in the movies. It doesn’t matter who you work for – if you aren’t actually learning then you’re not benefiting from the internship. Sure it might look impressive to have a big-name company on your resume, but it will be obvious to your future potential employers when you can’t thoroughly answer interview questions about tasks you should have experience doing.
On the other hand…
Some companies give their interns too many responsibilities instead of hiring a paid employee. This is something to look out for, especially if your internship is at a newer and smaller company that may not receive much income yet.
But how can you tell if this applies to you?
- Are you the only one in the company doing the type of work that you were hired for? Remember, you’re there to learn from those in your field with more experience. There should be someone you report to that has done your job before and can provide you with a truly educational experience.
- Is this company benefiting from you more than you’re benefiting from them? If the answer is yes, then that’s a red flag.
For more information about illegal internships, check out this clip from TruTV’s “Adam Ruins Everything”:
Are you on a search for the perfect internship? Let us know if you have any questions! Tweet us or comment below.