I know what you’re thinking…this internship trend is just hype! I’m not going to pay to work! First things first, you’re not paying to work…
you’re working for free ;) You’re paying for housing, a local contact person (that will make your life infinitely easier), to have that person arrange the internship for you… and a bunch of other helpful stuff. But more importantly, you’re paying to gain valuable experience and insight (not to mention the international experience!) that will help set you on the right path to faster success in the professional world.
What does an internship really do for you, anyway? Internships have some hidden benefits that you may have never even thought of. The main benefit is pretty obvious - you get work experience in your field of study….very important! As I talked about in my previous blog Why Work for Free?, an internship is (or should be) part of the educational process as the practical application of your classroom learning. This leads to finding a job faster after graduation and receiving a higher starting salary. But there are a few things internships do for us that might not be so obvious:
1 - Internships can save you from years of wandering! A recent study published in the Harvard Business Review showed that only 35% of college graduates moved straight into their career after graduation, while the other 65% struggled to some degree to get started (about half wandering for up to a decade before finding their career). Of that 35% that got started right away, 80% participated in at least 1 internship while in college and 64% were sure of their major. You may think you are doing all the right things by going to a 4-year college and pursuing a degree, but the truth is, employers now look for more indicators in determining your career readiness. This study tells us 2 things: 1 - Undergraduate students must use their time wisely and gain experience outside of their college classrooms to show employers they are prepared for a career. 2 - Being sure of your major is extremely important. The good news is that internships can be the answer to both of these dilemmas. You can gain that solid work experience you need and increase your understanding of your major, both before you graduate. This gives you time to explore and make any necessary changes before you walk away with that diploma.
2 - Internships can reveal passions you weren’t aware of! Here’s a little irony…While I was doing an international internship in micro-finance for a non-profit in the Dominican Republic that helps people start their own businesses, I figured out that my passion wasn't for micro-finance or even non-profit work (although I do find it fascinating and crucial), but for international internships and entrepreneurship! Had I known this 10 years ago, I would have been able to focus my education and experiences more specifically and save myself years of career wandering and frustration.
3 - Internships make you more competent (especially the international kind!) There’s nothing that will prepare you more for life than getting some real experience, and this holds even more true when it’s in another country. You’ll learn to be independent, self-sufficient, flexible, understanding, culturally sensitive, confident (all things that companies look for w
hen they’re hiring by the way). You’ll discover things within you that you never knew were there. You’ll find out you are so much stronger than you thought you were. An international internship will push you, and that’s a good thing.
So, if you were on the fence…just go for it. I think you'll find that you won’t regret it. I know I didn’t, and I’ve never talked to anyone else who has. JUST GO FOR IT! Now is the time.