At the most basic level, internships = professional experience. Professional experience is a great way to apply your college education, and work your way toward securing a job — One of the primary benefits of an internship. I think it’s safe to say you understand all of this.
However, even if you understand it, it’s a lot of work to seek out and secure an internship. When things get hard, it’s easier to push it all off and procrastinate. Before you know it, you’ve missed your window to get an internship. Well, there goes that timely professional experience that you need!
I find that understanding the many benefits associated with something (and specific ones, at that), helps motivate me to stay on track and hit my goals. I want to help you hit your internship goals, not just set them. Here are three positive ways an internship will change your life…
Stepping outside of your college bubble for an 8-10 week internship, is just enough time to build amazing lifelong relationships with people. I’m not just talking about professional relationships (although if you do it right, those absolutely come with the territory). I’m talking about solid friendships.
An internship is an opportunity to cross paths with people that you may never have crossed paths with otherwise. This idea expands even more if you are participating in an internship in a new city, state or even country.
If you’re lucky, you’ll make friends with people from different backgrounds and experiences that change your life for the better. It’s like a melting pot of students from different colleges. Same same but different. By the end of the internship, you will share a special bond for having gone through this crazy, new experience together.
Think about it — similar goals and ambition brought you together for the internship. Those same factors will keep you connected as time goes on.
I have some great friends from my internship days. While we may not see each other all the time, when we do it is like no time has passed. I’ve had so much fun connecting with them over the years in Chicago, New York, New Orleans and San Francisco, for dinner, a fun night out or even a college football national championship game.
As you step into your internship, definitely work to establish some solid professional relationships. Seek mentors, and people that you can call on throughout your career, to help open doors and make introductions. But be sure to make time for the personal friendships as well. They’ll make the hard days better and the good days fun, and they will stick with you long after the internship ends.
When you boil it down, college can be pretty black and white. Most of your courses conclude with multiple choice final exams that have right and wrong answers. Here’s the thing — the real world has a lot more gray to it than that.
You probably hear about hard and soft skills a lot. Especially when it comes to beefing up your resume or perfecting your answers to interview questions. Well, problem solving is one of the best soft skills there is. Your ability to problem solve is a pretty good indicator of how well you will navigate the gray areas of the real world.
In professional environments, your ability to problem solve (and often on the spot) is a necessity. You’ll find this necessity increases the further you advance in your career. A good part of your day will be spent problem solving, both big and small decisions. Team members, your company as a whole and your business partners will rely on you to problem solve well.
The faster you can become a confident problem solver, without having to look up the answer in a text book or rely on someone else, the better. The best way to develop your knack for problem solving? Practice. How do you practice? Realtime scenarios at your internship.
At internships that lack strong managerial guidance, you are left to trial and error. At other internships, you could be tasked with specific, challenging projects. But a good majority of the time as an intern, you just don’t know what you don’t know. Naturally then, most things present themselves as a new problem to solve.
The more you work through the various challenges of an internship, the more confidence you build. And the next time you’re interviewing for an internship or job, your resume doesn’t just say you’re a good problem solver, you actually are one. You now have concrete examples you can point to, from your internship experience, that is sure to impress. And bonus! You are now that much better at navigating the gray areas in this world.
It’s one thing to take interest in an industry and think you know what it’s all about. It’s an entirely different thing to actually experience it. Once again, internships are coming in clutch!
In my opinion, the most valuable thing to come out of an internship is learning more about what you don’t like. Investing time at an internship gives you perspective — A point of view that you can’t pick up by just reading, or hearing, about a career path secondhand.
A new perspective can help you leap frog your way to a fulfilling career, saving you time and money. At least it did for me. Had I not done an internship as a strength and conditioning intern, working with professional athletes, I wouldn’t have realized until much later that it wasn’t the career for me.
Just imagine what my opportunity cost would have been if I didn’t take the time up front and gain perspective through that internship experience. Likely years of my life, plus the student debt of pursuing a masters degree in a field that didn’t suit me.
Not only did completing that internship save me time and money in the long run, but it gave me a new appreciation for people in the sports industry. I gained a new attitude toward professional athletes. No longer did I look at them as famous people who had it all going for them, all the time. A lot of times it seemed the opposite. I observed how much time and energy they dedicate to their career, often at the expense of genuine friendships, privacy, etc.
I also picked up some new ideas about the various career possibilities that I could pursue within professional sports. My new understanding of the sports industry re-energized me. I was inspired by what I could do, and where my career path could take me. I pivoted and started following new interests.
You don’t know what you don’t know. Expose yourself to opportunities early and often so that you can continue to learn, reflect and pivot as necessary along the way. Pursue your interests through an internship (or a few days of job shadowing). Even if you end up hating it, your perspective will be broadened for the better.
People. Problem Solving. Perspective. Three positive ways that an internship will change your life. Now go get out there and experience it all for yourself! You won’t regret it.