College Internships: Why NOT getting one could be your biggest mistake

college internships

Think back to when you were a senior in high school. What did you think your future job would be? I wanted to get involved with youth ministry in a church. Well, four years later I graduated from college with a completely different degree and an entirely new life plan.

The internships I had in college helped me determine what type of career I wanted, and propelled me into my future with more than a degree.

College is the perfect time to have an internship — either during the school year, or, more conveniently, over the summer. During college you are first introduced to your field of study in a classroom setting. Between taking notes, listening to lectures and reading books on the subject matter, you have the opportunity to learn a ton — a ton of facts at least. But most of the time, the most valuable learning takes place outside of the classroom. Pairing book knowledge with an internship can be one of the best career-shaping decisions you will ever make.

The summer after my sophomore year I decided to look into reporting and TV journalism. After a random move to Oklahoma City with some friends, I punched in “nearest news station” on my Garmin GPS (remember those?) and walked right into NBC News Channel 4. I asked for an application, filled it out on the spot and called back every day for the next week. Within a few months, I was live on their morning show and writing my own news stories. It pays to be bold and persistent.

I learned a lot that summer, but most importantly, I learned reporting was NOT for me. The benefits of that internships didn’t stop there— in my classes that coming fall, I understood things better than ever before; textbook concepts were no longer just words on a page. I could describe how The Associated Press worked, instead of just reciting a memorized definition. My understanding was created from experience, not memorized jumbo written by someone else who maybe, one time, 10 years ago experienced it.

This real-life knowledge helped me choose my classes for the next semester and shaped my professional career path. The next summer, I decided I wanted to intern at a non-profit organization. I picked one I liked and searched their internships online. I applied for every single one available. I received a call back and an internship. They later told me my previous internship experience impressed them, and is what helped me get the job. My internship at that summer was life changing and career shaping.

Senior year rolled around, and I chose classes that would enhance the strengths and challenge the weaknesses I had discovered during my internship. By my last year of college I had a good understanding of where I was going. Had I not spent my summers interning, I would be fresh off the college press and one confused girl. Having “real-life” experience helped me know what type of place I would like to work for, and on what talents I could sell myself. This is very important to know as you face interviews and callbacks.

Summing up my experience, here are few reasons why it is important to have internships in college:
• You will better understand future classes.
• You will gain real-life experience in your field of interest.
• You will build your resume.
• You will make great contacts and references for future jobs (networking).
• You will have a better understanding of your interests.
• You may find out what you don’t want to do (better now than after you graduate!)
• You will learn how businesses and organizations work, enhancing your communication skills.

I graduated from college four years ago and see clearly how important each internship was. They guided me to where I am today and provided the work experience many of my peers were lacking when it was time to enter the job market. Internships give you an edge that just might land you a job after college. It may be easy to transition back into that part-time job you had in high school, but I encourage you, get an internship. You won’t regret it.

A few more internship pointers:
• Don’t be afraid to call and ask if an organization would consider an intern, even if they haven’t advertised for one.
• Even if you do move home for the summer, call local businesses you are interested in to see if you could even come in a few days a week to help out.
• Don’t be afraid to think big.
• If you land an internship, work hard.

Internships will help you discover your talents and illuminate your career path.

Share your success stories about how internships during college helped your career.

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About Chelsey Nugteren

Chelsey Nugteren is a freelance writer and marketing consultant. She shares advice with young adults about navigating their careers and getting the most out of life. She is also passionate about helping millennials pursue marriage, and believes her generation can change the world through strong families. In her free time Chelsey is watching Shark Tank, cooking, scheming travel plans or camping with her husband. Follow Chelsey @MrsChelseyRae.

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