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?
An internship. But what is an internship? Do you
get paid? Do you volunteer? Do you perform substantive work?
Or do you fetch coffee? 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
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 career.
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