According to a 2012 Millennial Branding/Experience, Inc. survey, 91% of employers think that students should have between one and two internships before graduating. In addition, 87% feel that internships should be at least 3 months in length for students to gain enough experience.
While it's great that having an internship will help you meet employers' expectations, that's hardly the only reason why internships matter.
Reasons For Doing An Internship
Internships offer many benefits to students. These opportunities can help you:
- Hone your skills: According to a 2015 survey, only 20% of students feel very prepared to join the workforce at the time of graduation. Internships can help you feel more prepared by letting you develop skills employers care about, work in a professional environment, and gain valuable experience in your field.
- Figure out what you want to do: It's better to learn that auditing isn't right for you during an internship than in your first job after graduation. One of the greatest benefits of an internship is that you get to check out different fields and companies to see if they match your expectations.
- Get a post-graduation job: Many employers hire directly from their internship pool—in fact, 61.2% of the time employers make full-time job offers to their interns. Because of this, getting your foot in the door through an internship can give you a huge advantage in your job hunt.
- Pivot careers: Many picture interns as young students, but nontraditional students can benefit equally from internships—especially if they’ve returned to school to move into a different field. Balancing an internship with other priorities may deter these students from applying for these opportunities, but their age shouldn't.
Does It Matter Where?
The most important factor to consider when looking for an internship is where you can gain the most related experience—not the size of the company or whether an internship is paid or unpaid.
Prior to launching your internship search, consider the positions and companies that you are interested in applying to in the future. This will help you be strategic about the places and internships that you target.
Tips For Making The Most Of Your Internship
Once you've landed an internship, follow these tips. You'll not only make a great first impression but also create a positive lasting impression on your employer.
- Dress for success. It may seem obvious, but a professional appearance is vital to making a positive first impression. (Here's more on what men and women should wear to work.)
- Set goals. Once you start working, one of the first things you should do is set goals for your internship with your supervisor. That way, you can ensure you achieve success.
- Act professional. Treat all people as if they really matter. Develop solid working relationships by showing kindness and respect to all. Lend a hand whenever necessary.
- Be a team player. Listen carefully to others. People want to be heard—so give them a chance to explain their ideas. Support your new colleagues and share the spotlight with them. Also, have an upbeat attitude and try to be a problem-solver.
- Take responsibility seriously. Your new employer is depending on you—show them you deserve their trust. Show up on time and submit good work when it's due. Also, stay focused. Avoid spending time at the office attending to personal matters.
- Communicate effectively. Know how to speak and write clearly and concisely. Communicate honestly and directly, but with tact and respect. Use care in your phone, email, and social media communications, since these are often the first contact customers make with you and your company.
For more information on getting the most out of your internship, check out this video.