Introduction to Internships
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Only a few short years ago, the "new" economy was booming. College
graduates and those holding professional degrees enjoyed a host
of employers seeking their talents. From investment banking and
blue chips to non-profits and start-ups, opportunity was everywhere.
No longer. Today, top jobs across all industries
and functional capacities have dwindled to a trickle. The recruiting
process has become increasingly competitive and candidates need
more initiative and tenacity than ever to land the job of their
choice. How can you get your foot in the door?
But what is an internship? Do you get paid? Do
you volunteer? Do you perform substantive work? Or do you fetch
It depends. With so many internships out there,
an internship can be practically any experience that combines learning
with hands-on activity. Interns for members of Congress might do
clerical work for free (or for college credit) ten hours a week,
while college juniors who intern for P&G are full-time, paid members
of a professional team. Interns earning their graduate degrees in
law or business might "train" for an employment opportunity after
graduation. In other words, internships can be paid or unpaid, full-
or part-time, and short- or long-term. Internships can be formal
programs with lengthy application procedures or informal opportunities
that you seek out. No matter what, an internship offers you the
opportunity to acquire practical skills in a structured environment.
As an intern, your environment should be characterized
by the chance to: bond with a mentor; attend organizational meetings;
shadow staff working in various functions; perform research or analysis;
take ownership of a specific project; and receive training specific
to your field of interest.
The extent to which your internship will offer
you a defined role depends on the organization with which you work.
Some companies have rigidly structured, long-standing programs for
interns, while others, particularly small firms or organizations
in the public sector, might offer you an incredible amount of self-determination.
Regardless of how structured your role might
be, internships offer you a chance to explore a potential career
without having to make a long-term, life decision. By actually participating
in a field that interests you, you not only have the opportunity
to "get your foot in the door," you also acquire practical skills
and make valuable contacts. Even if you learn via your internship
that you would never enter that particular career or corporation,
you have learned something of immense value. Far too many bright
and ambitious individuals earn graduate degrees or commit themselves
to a career before even taking their interest for a test-drive.
By completing an internship, you have the chance to gauge how reality
measures up to your expectations. Not every internship will provide
you with a solution to your career search, but even if your internship
doesn't "work out" in the traditional sense, the skills you acquired
and the contacts you made will offer you resources with which to
pursue your next step. No matter what, introducing yourself to the
internship can significantly advance your search for a rewarding