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When Does an Internship Make Sense?

The right internship can get you a foot in the door at an organization that you want to work for, or a company that is a major player in your field. Whether or not an internship is right for you may depend on where you are in your career, whether you can afford to volunteer your time, and what the internship offers in terms of knowledge, skills, and abilities.

When it's Right For You

If you're trying to gain career experience to complement your degree, an internship gives you projects and skills to add to your portfolio. It can help you build your resume, and demonstrate comprehensive experience to future employers. If you're a student, internships let you gain experience while you're still pursuing your degree, which may give you a jump start on your career. If you're changing careers or even thinking about it, internships help you gain experience in the new field while leveraging existing skills. They may help you decide whether or not to change careers.

Locating Opportunities

So you can find the right internship, brainstorm a list of skills you want to learn, and another of organizations or fields that interest you. If you have a career office on campus, visit them to get help planning your internship. If your an alumn, you may be able to utilize the career office at your former school. If you're not getting your education or don't have access to a career office, research companies in your fields then contact them directly to ask about internship opportunities. Some internships may be competitive, requiring an application process and a formal interview.

Finding a good fit

Once you decide to find an internship, carefully evaluate the possibilities. Not every internship will be a good fit. Find out whether the internship offers flexible opportunities that allow you to meet your other obligations, such as your education, work, or searching for paid positions. When you talk to potential internship sites, find out what your duties will be and what skills you will gain. The right internship will provide you with an assortment of tasks that enhance your career and are meaningful to you. If an internship only offers office duties or menial tasks, it An ideal internship utilizes your existing skills, and gives you experience in new areas of your field. If there are specific skills you want to learn, try to identify an opportunity where you can acquire these skills.

After the Internship

When your internship ends, make sure to get a letter of recommendation from your supervisor that you can add to your skills portfolio. If you're actively job searching, ask your supervisor to be a reference. If you handled important projects during your internship, such as writing a white paper or performing a research project, make copies of these documents for your portfolio. Some employers choose to hire interns for paid positions. If you're interested in obtaining a paid position at your internship site down the road, stay in touch with your coworkers to learn about future job openings.

Considerations

Before you commit to an internship, make sure it's right for you. Be realistic about your financial needs. Some internships offer money, but others are unpaid. If you cannot afford to support yourself while working your internship, wait to take an internship until you can do so. If you visit an internship site and don't like the culture, that isn't a good match for you. Remember, you're giving your time. Take the responsibility to make sure the opportunity feels right for you.