Before I entered university in 2014, my parents spoke to me at great length about the importance of becoming a well-rounded individual. They encouraged me to take a variety of classes in different subjects, in the event that I found myself interested in something other than my major. They also noted that joining on-campus organizations would help me connect with people of similar interests, and hopefully allow me to make many friends along the way.
One of the areas that my parents put a particularly strong emphasis on was the importance of getting internship experience while in college. They explained to me that internships allow you to get experience in the field, working in a company to learn the “ins and outs” of the field that I was putting so much time into studying. Building connections in the professional world would no doubt give me an advantage upon graduating, and may even set me up for securing a job before even finishing at university.
One thing I had heard about internships, aside from the usual “gaining experience and skills”, is that they can show you what you enjoy doing, and also what you don’t enjoy. You see sometimes students gain work experience and discover that they actually don’t enjoy working in the field they have been studying. This can encourage students to change course and switch their major, before graduating with a degree in a subject that they don’t actually plan to pursue.
Before taking my first internship during the summer before my third year, I never would have imagined how different the working world is compared to my many classes, seminars, and exams.
Upon completion of this first experience, I felt there were things that my university did prepare me for, but also many areas where I was woefully unprepared. As I continued to enroll in several additional internships before finishing at university, I learned many things about the transition into the workforce, and the benefits of taking internships while in university.
Many people have preconceived notions of what they think working in their field will look like. Perhaps you think you’ll be able to get involved in an exciting role and become an impactful individual in your company. Maybe you envision yourself working in a non-profit and pursuing charitable causes you care about. Or, you might see yourself making the next big breakthrough in an IT company.
Whatever your vision of work is like, an internship gives you the chance to make this vision a reality. Or, better yet, see if this vision is completely farfetched and experience what working is actually like.
Experiencing this while in college is a huge advantage, as you’ll be able to get a glimpse into your field before you enter the “real world”. Understanding this reality can be pivotal in your growth as a student and a young professional, and help you better understand the field you’re planning to enter.
Working as an intern, I learned just how true the old saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” can actually prove to be. This saying draws to the importance of networking and connections, meaning securing a job can often be based on knowing someone at the company who can give a good word on your behalf. Very often, having a connection like this can prove more beneficial than being even the most qualified of an applicant.
While I don’t believe this is true in every field, I do think it is important to consider when deciding to pursue an internship. I know many people who graduated in my class and were exceptional students – graduating with near-perfect GPAs and having a variety of volunteer and extra-curricular experiences. While these applicants may look competitive on paper, many of them decided not to pursue an internship while in university and thus, did not have any sort of professional network upon graduating.
Those of us who did decide to pursue internships had already built relationships with professionals in the industry. These are people that we could go to for advice, and also ask about any opportunities that may be open in their networks. Because of this network already being established, many of my classmates were able to secure full-time jobs with their internship company before even graduating.
Along with gaining experiences and building a network, an internship is a phenomenal opportunity to grow as a professional. College/university is often considered the period where you grow the most as an individual, and I would argue an internship is just as valuable for promoting growth.
As an intern, you are responsible for meeting deadlines, attending meetings, working within a team, and being a representative of your company. Within these frames of responsibility, praise and credit, along with feedback and criticism, will naturally come.
All feedback can be a valuable learning tool and can help you in your growth as a professional. If you actively seek feedback on your work, projects, proposals, etc, people will often be obliged to give you a few points of constructive criticism. Use this feedback to better yourself and better understand how people are perceiving your attitude, work ethic, motivation, and other traits.
It is important that you learn to accept feedback even when it is given to you in a way that may seem “harsh”. A sign of maturity is being able to take feedback into consideration, even if you completely disagree with it. As an intern, it can be very hard to not take feedback personally, and rather to see it as an opportunity to do better. This is a valuable lesson that you need to learn at one point or another, and learning it while still in university means you have more time to improve before entering into a career.
As I’ve mentioned before, internships are great ways to show you if you really enjoy working in a field or not. Instead of putting all your bets on the prediction that you absolutely will enjoy your field, enroll in an internship to see if this is actually the case.
Many surveys show that there is a considerable number of people who are currently working in fields that do not relate to their university field of study. While there are a few reasons that can be attributed to this, oftentimes people enter into their field of study and realize it is simply not what they want to do.
There is absolutely no shame in changing your career projection at any point in your life, but it is usually better to do this sooner rather than later. Changing your career plans while in college gives you time to continue to explore other opportunities through internships and classes, and better understand what type of role you will seek once you do graduate.
Through my experiences, I learned how valuable it was for me to enroll in internships while at university. The personal & professional growth, valuable feedback, and a better understanding of my field and career options really proved to put me on a solid path. I believe all students should strongly consider an internship while they are at university, and many of our internship program alumni agree!
Wondering what are the best internships for college students? CRCC Asia hosts a wide variety of in-person and virtual internship options! Select from 18 Career Fields, and even explore the opportunity to earn university credit for your internship! Check out our website or email [email protected] for more information!