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Internships (& Why You Need More Than One)

Summer is here! Whether you’re going back to school in the fall, just graduated, or contemplating a career change, it’s the perfect time to make sure you’re on the right track. So, between the beach and the barbecue, contemplate your options. Internships should be at the top of the list…

While I was in college, I got a job I loved. I enjoyed the work, enjoyed the people, enjoyed everything. But, while I kept returning to that job I loved so much, my fellow collegians were trying their hands at as many different jobs as they could. A smart move, on so many levels.

Now, while my curriculum didn’t require an internship, many did. These days, an internship is a prerequisite for graduation from most majors, if not the college or university itself. Which is great, because internships can play a major role in the trajectory of your career.

I should have ventured outside of my comfortable work cocoon and here’s why you should, too…

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1. The Process of Elimination…or Excitement
Let’s be honest, when you tell someone what you want to be when you grow up, most of the time, you’re not exactly sure what that entails. It’s crazy. One minute you may want to be the next Elle Woods, but when you actually find yourself working in a practice, you may just reconsider. There is no better way to figure out what you don’t want, than being as close to the actual job, as possible. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you could figure out what your dream job is, and exactly what you need to be doing to make it happen. You could fall instantly in love with a career and want to take it to the next level or spin it into something of your own creation. Just think, if you hadn’t taken an internship, you may never have been exposed to your calling.

An internship could be the gateway to your future, or it could be the proverbial nail in the coffin of a profession.

2. Cutthroat Island or Teamwork Makes the Dream Work?
You may be a teddy bear, but if your office is full of lions and tigers, you may not survive it. Certain professions can sound enjoyable, but once in the trenches, their cutthroat nature will be revealed. If you’re not fully enjoying the work, cut your losses and get out. Find another internship more suited to your nature.

You also quickly realize who is part of the team and who is only out for #1. Jockeying for position can be downright drastic in some workplaces, so gaining an internship that shows exactly what your life would be like, gives you a clear indication of the types of people you’ll be encountering on a daily basis. You can gain perspective instantly. If a team-oriented approach is what you’re looking for, be sure to search out companies where that is a welcome aspect to every day office culture. 

An internship is the perfect way to gauge what your life will be like, should you continue along that path. It really is the easiest way to figure out what kind of work and people you want to surrounding yourself with – every day.

3. Toxic Waste is the Worst
There is no other way to say it, so I’m just going to: some workplaces are completely toxic. You know the saying “misery loves company?” Well, some coworkers and supervisors take that to heart. If they can’t be happy, neither can you. Now, this isn’t about the internship itself, so much as it is about the company.

But, when you find the right place, surrounded by the right people, you know it’s where you’ll fit in and (more importantly) make an contribution and an impact! Search for a company that represents everything you want to be a part of! An internship will be the perfect way to get your foot in the door!

Your supervisor, co-workers, workspace, and office culture, are all aspects that can make or break a workplace and are major factors you should definitely take into account during an internship. 

4. You’ve Graduated, Now What?
I know people who never had to work in college. They were lucky enough to travel (or sleep) through break(s) and never had to think twice about it, until graduation hit. When you’re faced with the prospect of having no job experience on your resume, panic can ensue. Sure, it might be awesome to talk about how you’ve traveled the world, but it won’t exactly get you a finance position. Outside of paid positions, you should look into internships as an option after you’ve left school.

Granted, they may not come with a paycheck, but they may turn into an opportunity down the road. So, if you’re lacking bullet points for your resume or hoping to not have to list a gap in employment, look into a post-grad internship. It may just turn into your first full-time job.

This could also apply to those that studied in rigorous, specialty programs in school. Say you’ve just graduated with a nursing degree. You spent all of your time in school shuffling between classes and clinical and student nursing! While you’re studying for your boards, why not take an internship working in the hospital finance office or as a medical practice assistant? Adding aspects to your background and resume can only serve in making you more well-rounded. It can also lead to more opportunities down the road, outside of the hospital. Just saying.

5. Career Changers Apply Here
Okay, say you’ve graduated and been steadily employed for a while, but aren’t feeling fulfilled or challenged, anymore. Burn out is coming, and coming fast. Enter the always welcome, yet sometimes dreaded, career change. You’ve got a teaching degree but want to be a nurse. You’ve got a nursing degree but want to go into administration. It could be anything, but the problem is: you’ve got little to zero experience in your new arena. What should you do? Scope out internships. I’m not kidding.

It may seem weird to be further into your career and sharing a space with college interns, but you’re all there for the same reason: to learn and experience the job. So, when you’re finally ready to interview for your new endeavor, you can readily speak about what it was like to experience it, first-hand, and how excited you are about it. No age limits, here!

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As much as they can be a pain for some, internships are a great thing. And, you should definitely take on more than one. I mean, what if it changes what you want to do? It’s better to realize in your sophomore year, when you’ve still got time to change it, that the accounting major may not be right for you. Isn’t it better to find out now, than burn out ten years down the road and be looking for other options?

It is.

Trust me, I know.

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