Are you a back-row student? That is, whenever possible, do you self-select to sit in the back row in class? Are you tempted to check your emails, texts, Facebook, and Instagram messages during class? If you often find yourself in the back row of classes and are more comfortable flying under the radar, learn how an internship can help you develop the skills you need to push yourself forward in your career.
Are you happy to sit in a back seat and “keep your head down,” do your work, answer questions if called upon but not be the first to jump in with the answer? Are you content with solid passing grades? Or are you looking for something that will engage your thinking and keep you interested, but aren’t sure what that might be?
Out of the Classroom and Into the World
One way to get involved and learn more about yourself and your passions is to do an internship. Internships aren’t just for students who know what they want and where they are going; internships are for all students. An internship will get you out of the classroom and into the real world.
# Benefits of Internships
An internship will give you adult responsibility. You’ll do tasks that are important for your company or organization — and other team members will rely on you so they can do their work.
Moreover, internships enable you to build new skills. You will have opportunities to work in teams, present your ideas persuasively, and meet deadlines. These are vital abilities in both education and work — and internships provide the ongoing chance to strengthen these skills.
Internships offer the chance to build workplace relationships with other adults — from your supervisor to your mentor to your colleagues — and, in turn, to be treated as an adult yourself. Your co-workers can offer guidance as you consider future goals and pathways, and they will become important members of your professional network.
Working as an intern can also give you insight into careers that you may or may not like. After a particular internship, you may understand that a career you believed was right for you turns out to be a poor fit. Gaining experience and eliminating choices can be just as helpful as landing an imagined “dream” role.
Choosing an Internship
The prospect of choosing an internship can be daunting. After all, you’re potentially deciding not only where to spend the summer (or part of the school year), but also the field and company in which you’ll launch your career. How can you decide what will be best for you?
# Imagine Yourself at Work.
Start by asking what you want to do. What type of setting appeals to you: Indoors or outdoors? A large operation? A creative atmosphere? Do you like to work with people, or do you prefer solitary pursuits?
One way to think about where you want to intern is to imagine yourself actually at work. Are you in an office wearing business attire? Or are you in a laid-back workplace where everyone is dressed casually, there is an open-office layout, and meetings tend to be informal? Are you collaborating with a team of people to accomplish a project, or working alone on independent assignments?
# Research Your Options.
Go online to investigate career areas that interest you and to get a feel for the different types of jobs in that field. If possible, speak to people who do this work to learn what their daily responsibilities are, what they find challenging about their careers, and what is most satisfying for them. Many professions hold regular, local meetups where you can spend time among people who are considering or already following this pathway. You can also learn more about professional gatherings that are open to the public by contacting specific industry associations in your area.
# Narrow Your Choices.
Make a list of the careers you may want to pursue, and then investigate local businesses or organizations in each one. If you’ve always known that you wanted to enter finance, or work in health care, or own a garden center, you can use Noodle’s internship search to discover local opportunities that are a good fit.
Remember that internships should be related to your interests and skills — but don’t rule out potential providers too quickly. For example, if you’re interested in health care, you may believe you wouldn’t want a government internship; but many clinics are operated by state or local governments and may have internship opportunities that provide the experience you’re seeking.
# Know What’s Truly Out.
If you are afraid of animals, don’t consider an internship with a veterinarian, even if it’s as a receptionist. There are settings or responsibilities that are just out of the question for each of us, and understanding your limits is just as important as knowing your interests. Likewise, if the prospect of spending eight hours each day indoors working at a desk is unappealing, research internships that would allow you to work with the Parks Department or as a landscape architect’s assistant.
Relying on Your School or College
Whether you are a high school or college student, check with your school or college to see if it has an internship program for students. Talk to the program director to let her know that you want to pursue an internship, and discuss areas that interest you. The career offices at schools often help connect students with internship opportunities, as well as provide support in writing resumes, cover letters, and practicing for interviews.
Related: “Get Your Resume Internship Ready”
If your school or college does not have a formal program, speak with your guidance counselor or academic advisor about your interest in taking on an internship. Often, these individuals have personal or professional ties to community organizations that offer internships to students.
A Final Word
Internships can provide some of the most valuable work experience that high school and college students can receive. This, in turn, can help them move forward in a career path that will be both satisfying and rewarding. Now is your chance to take concrete steps toward your future — as a front-row intern.
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