When you're a student, a new graduate, or a seasoned worker looking to switch industries, a professional internship can be a useful asset. These short-term, low-level positions give you a unique window into a company's operations, all without the commitment of a full-time job. As you decide whether or not to take a paid or unpaid internship during your job search, consider the potential benefits to your career.
A professional internship provides firsthand experience with an industry and company. Interns usually work alongside higher-level employees, so you have the chance to observe every aspect of office life. Most importantly, you can see what your dream job actually entails on a day-to-day basis — a process that can have dramatic implications on your future career. You might leave with an increased passion for a specific job, or you may discover that your personality and talents are well-suited to a position you never considered.
If you're a student, or if you never worked in a professional environment, internships are a great way to get your feet wet. A professional internship teaches you about the expectations of a "real-world" job, including communication, meeting deadlines and working as a team. It also shows you how to behave and succeed in the workplace — information that's difficult to get from a college course. When you start a full-time job down the road, this experience makes it easier to hit the ground running.
Portfolio and Resume Building
A professional internship is a low-level position, but in many cases, the job involves much more than making copies and getting coffee. Since companies often use internship programs as a way to identify promising future employees, they may test your abilities with meaningful tasks and responsibilities. Depending on the company, you might have the chance to work on client projects, contribute to the business' blog or participate in the creative process. As a result, you can walk away with professional work products to add to your portfolio. In addition, the internship itself builds your resume, making you a more attractive candidate to other employers during a job search.
Bridging Experience Gaps
Internships aren't limited to students and new graduates — they can also be useful when you're changing industries. If you find that employers aren't willing to take a chance on your unusual work history or lack of relevant experience, a professional internship is low-risk a way to prove yourself. By showing up, going above and beyond in your intern duties and demonstrating that you can be an asset to the company, you can parlay a short-term gig into a full-time job. The work also helps you learn the lingo and figure out how to market your transferable skills during the transition.
Although a professional internship might be unpaid, the valuable experience often makes up for the lack of compensation. By investigating each position carefully, you can choose the one that best benefits your future career.
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