Internships: Bridging Academics to Real World Experience
What is an Internship?
An internship is a planned, “real world” learning experience that provides an opportunity to gain practical, on-the-job training in a field of interest to you. It serves as a bridge between the classroom and the world of work, allowing you to apply what you have learned in school to real-life work experiences. You can think of it as apprentice-type training.
Internships are usually short-term, structured and supervised. Because of the emphasis on learning rather than money, internships are often coordinated to provide academic credit. However, internships can offer a stipend or hourly wage only, or a combination of academic credit and pay.
What are the Benefits?
- Extremely valuable, practical experience
- Individualized instruction on-the-job
- Ability to apply classroom theories in the real world
- Personal contacts with people working in your career field
- Better preparation for post-graduation employment
- Excellent resume builder
Who is Involved in an Internship?
Many internship opportunities only involve a student and employer and no academic credit is given. However, students may coordinate academic credit for some internship positions by working closely with their employer and a faculty supervisor. Generally, the student is responsible for completing assigned tasks and meeting pre-established objectives. The faculty supervisor acts as a liaison and representative of the academic department in order to maintain the instructional goals of the internship experience. The employer provides instruction, guidance, and general assistance for the duration of the internship.
How do I Choose an Internship?
Identifying and selecting an internship requires significant thought and self-assessment. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Evaluate your personal and academic interests and determine your career goals
- Identify the skills you have to offer to an employer
- Decide the type of organization in which you would like to work
- Determine your workplace values
- Evaluate the necessity of monetary compensation
- Select a geographical area in which to work
If this sounds a bit overwhelming, visit with your faculty advisor or a career counseling specialist for assistance.
Evaluating and Concluding an Internship
- Ask for feedback on your performance during the internship
- Record your work activities in a journal to help evaluate both the internship experience and the company after the internship ends
- Have your supervisor formally evaluate your work performance
- Thank your supervisor and co-workers for the instruction and guidance
- Add this valuable experience to your resume
A successful internship experience relies primarily on one person: YOU. Treat an internship like a full-time professional position. Students who succeed take the initiative and ASK QUESTIONS. You will not know how to do everything, nor will this be expected. However, being observant, learning quickly, volunteering to help, and working hard are keys to an outstanding internship. You may do such a great job that you are offered a full-time position after graduation!
Job Shadowing & Informational Interviewing
If your schedule does not allow the time commitment necessary to participate in an internship, no problem! You can also gain valuable insights into a particular occupation or career field through Job Shadowing or conducting an informational interview. Job shadowing allows students to spend a few hours to a few days “shadowing” a career professional to learn about the day-to-day duties and responsibilities associated with the job. Informational interviewing can be a part of a job shadowing experience, or it can be done as an independent activity (see the “Interviewing Yourself into a Career” article in our Search for Jobs &Internships section). Along with internships, these two activities allow you to research an occupation from the inside-out and begin developing your network of contacts!
To learn more about internships, job shadowing and informational interviewing, visit with your professors and academic advisors, or drop by the Career Development Center to visit with one of our career counseling specialists.