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5 Reasons Why Internships Are as Important as Your Degree

5 Reasons Why Internships Are as Important as Your Degree

So many of us get caught up in the workload of actual classes during our college careers that we forget about internships until junior and senior year of college. The last two years are the most crucial and stressful. Add extracurriculars like sports or campus clubs and a job onto an already heavy load of classes, and if you’re anything like me, you’re barely getting 4 hours of sleep a night. Just when the finish line seems so close, you’re supposed to make time for an internship.

The fact that many universities don’t stress this until close to graduation is unfortunate, but the earlier you get on that train – the better. Granted, many of us change our majors a few times before really making a solid decision. Once that decision is made, it is time to start looking into internships. This might  mean cutting back hours at a job, cutting back on credits taken so you graduate a semester or two later, or dropping some extra curriculars. Internships (and the hands on experience you get and can put on a resume) are what companies are looking for.

Virtual internships

A study done by Interships.com showed that 66% of employers agreed that interview performance and relevant work experience were the most important hiring factors, not the 4.0 GPA that was so difficult to maintain, or on campus extra curriculars. In 2012, 54% of graduates were unemployed or underemployed. That being said, given internship experience, chances of being hired after college with a company that college graduates interned with go up to 70%. That’s a huge switch in probability (for the better) in the current tough economy.

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If you are desperate to graduate as scheduled and do not want to give up any extra curriculars, looking into virtual internships might work for you. These are not available everywhere. It will take some digging and maybe even some articulate reasoning to your department about why this is the kind of internship that you desire. If a virtual internship is not possible at your university then it is time to decide what is going to have to give. Here are the top 5 reasons why making the extra push to get one or more internships during college are very important.

1.Test Drive Career

There are internship possibilities for everything from counseling to zoo keeping. The trick is to take the time to find the right one for you so that you leave the internship with a better understanding of your desired career.

When I started college, I thought for sure I was going to go to law school. It wasn’t into my junior year until I realized my ideals no longer sat well with some of the things that I was learning, or with a lot of my peers. I took an internship with the local public defender’s office and it was exactly the evidence I needed to show me that law school was not the path for me. I was very fortunate to have discovered this before I spent many more years down a path that would have left me unhappy and in much more debt.

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2. Resume

Generally there are places on the campus that will help with putting a resume together. The truth though is that there is no one way to create a resume. Depending on your field of interest it may be a strict one page. Some are lenient and are okay with two pages. Some fields look for character, and others just want the facts. There is no way to really be sure unless you have spoken with those potential employers and find out exactly what it is they are looking for.

Also, and this is the most important, having some experience that pertains to the job being applied for after college (besides fast food or baby sitting– whatever college job you had)  is absolutely necessary. Your degree or degrees will stand out, but employers want to know that you have the real life skills to do the job well.

3. Networking

While interning you not only get to meet people at different levels of the company or government entity but you are able to connect with them as well. There is an opportunity to ask questions you probably wouldn’t have thought of otherwise as well as make an impression on the right people so that they remember you when hiring time comes.

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There is also the added factor of those same people contacting you if and when something new in another avenue that maybe you had not considered before becomes available. Those connections and the connections of those you have come to know will be key to finding jobs after college if a position at the internship does not work out.

4. Experience

This may be a bit redundant but it is THAT important. Through an internship, you gain a better understanding of your respective area of study and be able to make the connection between your current studies and how they will apply once you graduate.

If you have not ever worked in a professional atmosphere (and even if you have) sharpening those skills and interacting on a professional level creates the teamwork, communication, and leadership skills employers are looking for.

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5. Confidence

This is not something that comes easily to everyone. Even if you are a very confident individual it may come across as arrogance if you have no prior on-the-job experience.

Starting a career after college can be scary for anyone. Having made connections through an internship and having had the opportunity to make mistakes before graduation is such an advantage. It will also give you an idea of the pace of the position that you hope to acquire, making sure you are aware of the workload you are taking on and what is expected of you, so you can walk into that first interview standing tall and confident.

Remember grades are a wonderful representation of intellect, but they are not necessarily a representation of work ethic. Learning what is necessary while in college and then being able to apply that knowledge to the skills needed are what employers want to see.

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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