Internships are time consuming, energy consuming, and frequently unpaid. Taking internships often means filling time that might otherwise be spent on classes or extracurricular activities – and spending that time completing low-level work from an organization you likely won’t be affiliated with for more than a few months. So why are they so useful, and why is competition for them often so fierce?
The answer is that the benefits of an internship goes far beyond an intern’s (often boring) day-to-day workload. Here are a few:
1) Insight Into a Career Track
There is no better way to learn whether a career track is right for you – or whether a particular field is right for you – than to observe and meet people who are in it, and to be in it yourself. Often, interns gain just as much, if not more, from shadowing and observing company staff as they do from completing their own assignments.
Being in a work environment in your desired field means being regularly exposed to professionals in that realm. Internships are great networking opportunities; the connections you make as an intern can potentially open doors to future internships, study and research opportunities, and even job positions after graduation.
3) Resume Boosters
Internships look great on resumes because they show that you haven’t just looked at a subject in theory through classes and textbooks – you’ve tried it out in practice and gained perspective on the practicalities, frustrations, and other everyday realities involved in that line of work. If you continue pursuing positions in that field, whether in the form of more internships or longer-term employment, having an internship on your resume tells potential employers that you understand the work you’re getting into and have useful skills and experience to apply to it.
In nearly every field, working life is very different from student life in terms of hours, expectations, environment, social surroundings, and more. As such, the transition from studying a field to working in it can be a difficult one. Interning helps you to transition more slowly into working life: having fewer responsibilities and less expected of you than other full-time staff will allow you space to learn time management, to adapt to a new rhythm of life and work, and to even make a few mistakes.
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Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.