As the summer months turn to fall, recent college graduates continue to pound the pavement looking for employment. Although the job market seems to be more open than it was a few years ago, there are still challenges to overcome for the young worker. To gain an advantage we strongly recommend our scholars seek internships throughout their college career. In some cases, these experiences have led to offers of full-time employment after graduation. However, the most essential takeaway from an internship, we believe, is the personal confirmation that the path chosen is one where there is interest and passion. Below are five important benefits students can gain from internships:

  1. Professional experience - I knew from an early age that I wanted to pursue education as a career, but it wasn't until one of my first summer jobs that I confirmed it. I worked part-time at a summer camp for a local city recreation department. My job entailed planning and directing activities for a group of students ages 5-14. The opportunity to learn, write lessons and work directly with kids solidified that I was in the career field where I wanted to be.
     
  2. Networking - Internships provide the opportunity for relationships to form that could be crucial to finding future work. Putting social skills in action at the workplace helps supervisors and managers get to know you -- and sometimes it is as simple as that. But sometimes the return isn't as immediate. Years down the road there may be an opportunity to work with a coworker encountered during an internship. Those who reach out and let people get to know them are remembered not only for good work, but for personality and social prowess. 
     
  3. Skill development - Having the opportunity to develop what was learned in school in a real-world setting is invaluable. Interns learn how to be flexible and adaptable in work settings and may find that what seemed simple in a classroom setting is very different when you are sitting at a desk or out in the field. The opportunity to shadow others and learn from them puts the young worker at a distinct advantage over those that don't consider an intern role.
     
  4. Personal perspective - I recall thinking as I was growing up that being a teacher would be great fun -- and it is. However, it is a lot of work if you want to be the best. My early intern days helped me learn the benefits of planning ahead, creating backup ideas and being open to different approaches from others. Good teachers learn from their colleagues and build a synergy that builds off their passion and interest. I suspect that in other career fields, internships provide the same dose of reality. The job is fun and interesting, but doing it well takes time, energy and passion.  
     
  5. Job offer - While not always the outcome, a job offer is always an exciting possibility for the intern and usually the result of someone being able to vouch for the skills and adaptability of the individual to the environment.

Ambitious students are doing their homework, researching companies and organizations that are a good fit for their interests and skills and have lined up their internships far in advance of summer. Some accept unpaid internships as a way to learn and assess their skills for the work being done, while others find paid opportunities that offset living expenses and gain valuable experience as a result. Regardless of the details, it's clear that the benefits of any internship far outweigh taking the summer off and just rolling the dice after graduation.  

Champions of the unexpected for 20 years.