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Does an Internship Answer the Career Question?

Internship. A buzzword in the world of college students, it’s a credit earner and often times a path to extra cash, but does it really have any career-related benefit? I’m here to tell you that an internship can be a game changer in one’s long-term employment path.

At the age of sixteen, beginning at the start of my junior year of high school, I was repetitively asked two questions, only increasing the anxiety that every sixteen year old has in their very nature: “Where are you going to college?” and “What do you want to do?” As an eighteen year old entering into the seemingly independent yet simultaneously restrictive environment of college, the second question remained the same, but the pressure to have an answer intensified. Students are encouraged to either pursue a career to work towards for the rest of your life or start on a four year track for a specific degree. Choosing a life-long career path is a big decision when finding a prom date was one of the biggest worries just a year ago.

Reflecting on my first year of college, many freshmen end up picking majors in order to find some kind of identity and comfort, yet very few have known since the age of ten that they wanted to become a nurse or a lawyer or a business woman/man and have steadily pursued that career path ever since. I, along with the majority of my classmates, walked away from freshman year with the unanswered question of what we want to do with our lives.

In desperate need to replenish funds for late night college food runs or four-a-day Starbucks coffees, many students feel the draw to work over the summer- many of us applying as camp counselors or waitresses or to local stores that are easily accessible to work for during our summers at home. Although these options are resume-builders and are good for continual work ethic, they often don’t help answer the question that we were all faced with at sixteen. We continue to walk through our summers and college years with blinders on, thinking and hoping that one day our passions and job opportunities will magically align upon college graduation.

I decided to take a summer internship and it has been unimaginably valuable in shaping my outlook on what I want in a career. Does it fully answer the question with which I was presented? No. But has it aided me in my search and allowed me to change gears on a major? Absolutely. Working in a professional environment, seeing how an organization operates, and observing the moving parts that allow a company to maintain success has given me a more accurate perspective of the work environment and what daily “work life” is all about.

Choosing to take an internship has given me three fundamental opportunities:

  • An opportunity to work in a professional environment with other people who have chosen a major, pursued it, and maintained a steady job.
  • An opportunity to observe a field of work (specifically, staffing) as well as all the fields stabilizing the company as a whole such as accounting, sales and marketing, recruiting, etc.
  • An opportunity to build extensive work experience that a recruiter can understand and evaluate when they review my resume.

This is not to suggest that taking a summer job as a camp counselor or at a restaurant is invaluable, but introducing an internship into the mix of a college student’s experience, certainly gives them a unique perspective into what professional careers at an organization look like and could aid in answering the question that every sixteen year in high school is being asked, “What do you plan on doing for the rest of your life?”