Internships are often seen as a double-edged sword: an arrangement in which you can receive great exposure and experience, as well as the drawback of receiving little to no pay for the work you do. This is when people often have to weigh the pros and cons of taking on an internship for their given circumstances.
By law, employers now have to follow strict guidelines when offering internships so that they truly do offer educational value and a worthy experience, despite perhaps not being a paid opportunity.
At one point in time, internships were seen as more of an option for college students and recent graduates. However, due to the recent fluctuations in the economy, there’s been a rise in career-changers who are looking for opportunities to get their foot in the door of fields different from the ones in which they may have spent the past several years. Employers, understanding that not everyone may have a degree, but may have the skills to excel in a desired field, are further emphasizing work experience. This is when internships can be a stepping stone for such individuals to demonstrate their transferable skills from one career to another, and build new skills to become more competitive candidates for desired positions (with good chances of even nagging a position at the company with which they are interning).
Regardless of whether you are a current college student, recent graduate, a seasoned professional in another field, or someone with a large professional gap on their resume, internships offer the valuable opportunity to get hands-on experience in a desired field. Internships can possibly provide you headway into a company (they can hire you at the end of your internship) but even if you do not get an interview or offer, internships allow you to:
1. Demonstrate your passion for a field. After all, you are not going to work for little to no pay in a field in which you’re not highly interested.
2. Explore whether this is really the right career path for you. When you intern or work at a company, you’re not only exposed to the position you are filling or shadowing, you are also exposed to the entire system of the company and the many different roles and positions that go into making that system work. It gives you an idea of what other positions may be of interest to you, or if you continue on the path you are on, in what position and with what responsibilities you can expect to see yourself one, five, or ten years from now. For example, a person who may intern as a sales or business development representative, may also gain insight into the work of account executives, product designers, and marketers.
This is all valuable, long-term information that could be used to guide your life and the decisions you make going forward.
Therefore, while in the past interns were mostly seen as the young, just out of college students, now, you can see interns ranging across various ages and backgrounds. Additionally, employers are now held to higher standards and expectations on the value their internships should offer. Internships haven’t gone away, and don’t seem like they will go anywhere, however, they are changing how they look and work.