5 Things To Look For In An Internship

An internship is an excellent way to gain some work experience while still in college. It’s also a great way to get entry level jobs for fresh graduates. While there are paid and unpaid internships, money shouldn’t be a major determining factor when you are looking for somewhere to do your internship. With the many companies offering internship opportunities, it is often difficult to decide on which one to choose.

Internships in the bigger companies like Google, Facebook and Apple are fiercely competitive because of the promise of experience, and of course, the juicy annual intern salary (we’re talking upper five figures). However, there are more important things you need to look out for before making a decision on where to intern. The following should help guide you to making a good decision.

1. Is It the Best Use of Your Time

Internships are great for both the experience and the knowledge you stand to gain. However, you may want to consider if it’s the best thing for you now and in the future. For instance, if your goal is to work with an international non-profit organization later on, would an internship with a multi-national corporation really foster this dream? Wouldn’t volunteering with an international NGO be better suited to your career goals? As much as possible, don’t do an internship just for the sake of having one on your résumé, do it because it is genuinely in line with your career path or will tremendously benefit you both now and in the future.

2. Corporate Culture and Working Environment

Some people love fast paced and creative working environments. Others prefer the “sanity” of a conservative, less boisterous working environment.  Which do you prefer? Doing your internship with a stock exchange firm will mean working in a possibly “chaotic” and noisy environment, while doing it with an accounting firm will mean working in a quiet, conservative environment.

So, determine which is better suited to your personality and in line with your career goals. For instance, if you’re introverted and shy, but love sales and marketing, you can see that interning in an accounting firm will clash with your career goals and dreams. So, give this some thought when you’re interviewing or researching companies.

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3. Little or No Possibility of Exploitation

Here’s the truth: for some employers, interns are simply a cheap means of labor that they can take advantage of, particularly when it’s an unpaid internship. So, while interviewing, find out what your duties at work will be. The more specific they are about your role, the better. The best unpaid internships opportunities are usually with projects that have a clearly outlined start and end date. Please note that the US Department of Labor is clearly against any form of intern exploitation. According to them, all unpaid internships must be in the form of vocational education and that interns shouldn’t take over the work of regular employees. So, if you feel you might be exploited, check somewhere else.

4. Possibility of Mentorship

If you’re looking to build a mentor-apprentice relationship in the industry, an internship is clearly going to help with that. However, you need to understand that your boss or supervisor may not have the time for it or may not even initiate it. If he/she doesn’t, it might be left to you to initiate it. Just make sure to run it by the internship coordinator and ask for his/her advice. A good relationship with your mentor can result in the possibility of fulltime employment too.

5. Access to the Acquisition of New Skillset and Experience

An internship offers you the opportunity to put what you know into practice, and most importantly, learn how things are done in the workplace. Find out if the internship will allow you gain tons of experience and help you acquire a new skillset that is relevant to the industry. This is essential for your career path and securing a career in the future.

About the Author

Oscar King recently graduated from the University of Florida, and passes along what he learned from the college experience to current and prospective students. For handling the many faxes he found he needed to send to employers (as well as for financial aid purposes), rather than waste space with a fax machine, he opted to find an online fax service, and to find the best fit for you he recommends using FindAFax.com.

Photo credit: Lafayette CollegeAnita Borg Institute

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