Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Internships: The Essential College Experience

I believe we have all sat through a class in high school, college, or even graduate school and thought, “Why am I even learning this?…When will I ever use this?...or Who uses this in the real world?” While the answers to these questions are always going to be as debatable as the courses in question, I think what we are really asking for is relevant knowledge and experience. I mean who wants to drop a butt load of time and money on something irrelevant?
That’s why I wanted to write and highlight my experiences with college internships and how important I think they are to students. For the past five summers, I have had a summer internship which helped me gain experience and a much better wage than a regular summer job. I worked my way up over the years, starting out doing menial tasks for my hometown’s engineering department to taking on significant responsibilities at a Fortune 30 company. In all, I had internships with four different organizations and gained a more diversified experience background from the average college student. Below, I’ve listed all the reasons and advantages that I think make internships an essential college experience.
The Money:
Somewhere online I had seen a statistic pointing out that college internships pay more on average than the normal summer job, but alas I could not find it again. From personal experience I believe this to be true and I was able to increase my summer wage every year. You can see in the table how I was able to increase my summer wages each year and how they compared to minimum wage. I’ve also given a realistic example to illustrate the difference in wages over the estimated 1000 hours worked each summer. A combination of student loans and scholarships have put me through college and being able to earn a solid income during the summer definitely kept me from borrowing even more money. With more spending cash in hand I was also able to do more things in college. I was able to go on some pretty awesome trips with my fraternity over the years which are some of the most treasured memories I have from college. “Mo’ Money” might mean more problems for some, but not for this college student. 
(Not showing any taxes being taken out, but I think you get it)

The Experience:
There’s no price you can put on the experience I gained from my internships. Even when I was doing tasks and projects that I didn’t enjoy, I was finding out what I didn’t want to do with my future (people understate the value of this). Every summer seemed to bring on new challenges and tasks which helped me grow in so many ways. I made mistakes and learned how to own up to them, I gained experience working with co-workers and customers of all ages, personalities, and backgrounds, and built confidence in my abilities. Working in an environment with elevated expectations of your performance will do wonders for building character and an appreciation for delivering quality work. I have had numerous comments in the past on my résumé because of all the organizations I have been involved with in college and all my internship experiences. With the economy being as tough as it is, everyone leaving college can benefit from having some experience under their belt when competing for the few jobs out there. I’m banking on an employer appreciating the experiences I have had and putting increased value on me as a job candidate.   

The Perks:
I think there are a number of advantages to internships that are not always pointed out in similar blogs or articles. I encourage everyone to comment with any other “perks” that you’ve seen or experienced when it comes to internships.

*Yeah I’m Awesome: You had a cool and interesting job over the summer that you can talk and brag about.

*Future Jobs: You have gained critical interview material for future internship or job interviews. No need to struggle with those generic situational interview questions when you have personally dealt with those situations.

*Job Search: Searching, applying, and interviewing for internships will make you more prepared to face these challenges once out of college and you are looking for that first full-time job.

*Making connections: I’m always surprised by the network I’ve built through my internships and how they can come in handy.

*References: Nothing like having solid references from bosses and former co-workers when applying to that first or second big-boy/girl job. 

*Free Stuff: Hats, t-shirts, pens, padfolio, mugs, trips, food, drinks, rain gauge, bags, thermos, a Tervis, chapstick, rulers, sunglasses, flashlight, stressballs, calendars, and books are all things I’ve gotten for free over the years from my internships. (It’s the small things that count in life right?)

1 comment:

  1. I agree, although differ in your terminology. I did a co-op program in University and got paid a little bit more than a summer job, but as I was in sciences, I spent most of my time in a lab. I found it wasn't as glamourous or high paying as you're led to believe out of High School and I ended up changing careers (after finishing my degree) because of the experience. Had I not done co-op, I might still be working in a lab!