Internships: How They Factor Into Your Career Goals


If you have been avoiding an internship because they might involve nothing but fetching coffee for no pay, time to think again. While some internships can feel like a dead-end form of modern-day slavery, most internships are incredible opportunities to boost your long-term career goals.

Here is what you need to know.

Not all Internships are Created Equal

Thanks to living in a high tech age, you can check out internship positions before you apply. Do not just read the party line on the job posting either. Get on social media and take to the internet and see what people are saying about having worked as an intern for that company.

You may find a few naysayers, but you may also find a number of people raving about the skills acquired, connections made, and doors opened. You could be the next intern to post such a thing.

Read between the lines, also. Just like in house hunting, where words like “cozy” actually mean “small,” internship job postings have certain terms that can give you signals as to the nature of the day-to-day. “Flexible schedule required” may mean you are on-call at odd hours. Internship jobs seeking “dedicated individual” may mean that the work is grueling. Such terminology should not necessarily be a deal-breaker, it just means go in prepared and with your eyes open.

Work Now, Pay Later

Paid internships certainly exist, but not always, and those do tend to be the most competitive positions. Still, if you are a really competitive candidate, you can bring it up. Unpaid internships can also lead to paid internships or paid more permanent positions. Ask upfront what the expectations and opportunities will be.

For students, internships are vital to long-term success. Graduating with a degree and zero related working experience is no bueno. Even if you went back to school to get your degree, so you have prior working experience, employers may favor candidates with some sort of experience in their field.

So, as tough as it can be to manage school and internships, getting related work while still in school will help you land the best paying jobs in the future. Even short job internships, only as long as spring break or winter break, can make a big difference in your employability later.

Making No Pay Work

Taking an unpaid internship position can be super tough. How do you make it work? Here are some thoughts and ideas to consider:

  • Help from family or friends—Even if you do not have the kind of family that would normally provide for you, maybe they would for an internship opportunity.
  • Drastically cutting expenses—If you can’t live for free, you sometimes can live on the cheap. Lots of roommates (even renting out your own place), ditching amenities like cable and going out, and so on can all make a short period of no pay possible.
  • Save up big time, first—If you know you want to change careers and that an internship might make that career change possible, consider saving up a few months’ expenses first.
  • Flexible side job—Side jobs like being a Lyft driver or other temporary or project-based work can buy you some money, even if it eats up extra time. Working two jobs can be tough, but knowing it will boost your long-term career goals may make it easier.

Take the Plunge

Whether you are just starting out, or coming out of a planned retirement, or any life stage in between, internships can lead to rewarding careers. Even if an internship only helps you determine the kind of work that is not for you, such knowledge can be power…and jump-start your future.

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