College isn’t easy. It takes dedication to earn any degree. Whether it’s four years at a business school or two years in a technical program, higher education is earned through hard work and late nights.
At the end of their studies, college students look for gainful employment, seeking their place in the national workforce. Sometimes a job comes easily, at other times this can be more of a struggle.
Nevertheless, college graduates, in many estimations, are offered a more diverse range of employment opportunities than those without this level of education. This, of course, is up for debate.
In recent history — over the past few decades — the value of a two-/four-year college degree has been questioned.
As ever-increasing numbers of young people earn them, the utility of holding a bachelor's degree (or some variation thereof) has, seemingly, dwindled. In response to a widening pool of qualified entry-level candidates, U.S. employers have made “real-world experience” a secondary gatekeeper.
For college students, real-world experience can be hard to come by as focusing on their studies takes precedence. That said, as the qualifications for getting a post-college job change, the behaviors of those searching for one, naturally, follow suit.
Today, some experts see college internships as having replaced entry-level jobs. As a result, students (just like you) compete each year to gain relevant experience through internships. Some even accept unpaid positions.
Do you feel this pressure? If you do, it’s natural to wonder why an internship would be worth your time. Are they just another way to burn your summer, providing cheap labor to a company under the guise of “real world” experience?
Or, are they actually valuable, granting you exposure to people, knowledge and circumstances you’d otherwise never encounter?
Honestly, depending on your situation, either can be true.
Here at Anderson Trucking Service (ATS), we take pride in offering a robust college internship program. Our interns leave ATS well-tested and prepared for success. This, coupled with our extensive history of vetting and hiring employees around the U.S., leaves us with the contention that college internships (at least the good ones) are important.
In this article, you’ll learn five of the top reasons having an internship in college can be a positive decision for you to make. And, at its conclusion, you’ll receive a tool for finding and securing an internship in the future.
5 Reasons College Internships Are Important
Depending on your area of study, the importance of having an internship will vary.
For example, business students — those studying accounting, finance, management or marketing —- often find it highly beneficial to have an internship in college.
On the other hand, English majors — particularly those who plan on pursuing post-secondary education — might not benefit as much from, or have the same ability to find, a relevant internship.
For those who fit the internship “mold,” here are five of the largest ways internships can be beneficial:
- Internships teach you tangible skills to complement your education
- Internships allow you to explore different career options
- Internships display your commitment to being successful
- Internships can, often, be taken for academic credit
- Internships help you build a network within a field
1. Internships Teach You Tangible Skills To Compliment Your Education
When you’re in college, your days are filled with classroom time, homework, group projects and peer-to-peer interactions. Each of these activities is valuable, teaching you interpersonal skills, how to collaborate effectively and what it takes to complete complex tasks.
During your years in school, you’re learning hard skills, specific to your area of study, and soft skills that are applicable across the board. A good internship will help you expand your skillset in all areas.
An internship should challenge you and allow you to dip your toes into all aspects of a profession. Among other things, a great internship program will teach you tangible skills like:
- How to properly manage time at work
- How to work well on a team of like-minded professionals
- How to solve complicated programs
- Job-specific technical knowledge and skills
- Data analysis
- Information processing
Every task you complete as an intern will help you become a more well-rounded student and professional. For this reason, internships can play a fundamental role in your future success and academic achievement.
2. Internships Allow You to Explore Different Career Options
Every college student selects a major; an area of study to focus on. This major reflects a broad category of work the student is interested in pursuing following graduation.
For you, this could be any number of things — marketing, finance, accounting, management, communications, administration, etc.
As a young person without much real-world job experience, choosing an area of study is a great starting point. This selection was probably based on your interests, skills and priorities.
Eventually, though (upon graduation), you’ll need to pick a more specific role to fill.
For marketing majors: Do you want to go into sales? If so, what kind of sales? Outside sales? Inside sales? Or, do you want to stick to marketing? In that case, do you want to do content marketing, paid advertisement, social media or web design?
This is a choice you’ll be making soon.
For people studying finance: Are you considering a job in personal wealth management? Thinking about working in banking? Or, do you have another path in mind?
Unfortunately, it’s hard to make these decisions as an undergraduate. Without hands-on experience, you simply don’t have the data needed to pick a career path.
As a result, it’s not uncommon for people to switch jobs frequently within their first decade, or so, of employment, searching for the role that suits them best.
This is where having a college internship can provide exceptional value. As a college intern, you’ll be able to “test drive” a career path for a short time with (relatively) low stakes. Even if you decide the job you did or the industry you interned in wasn’t right for you, in the end, this experience did its job; helping you calibrate your sights in the right direction.
3. Internships Display Your Commitment to Becoming Successful
With so many other things on your plate, and such a vast number of potential distractions, completing an internship (or two) during college is impressive.
Every recruiting specialist and hiring manager understands the strain college students are under; they’ve been through it too. That’s why when a job candidate has relevant internship experience, their resume is bumped to the top of the pile.
More than anything, a person’s commitment to finding, receiving and working through a college internship tells an employer one thing: This person is dedicated and serious about becoming a successful employee.
Companies want to hire people who take the initiative to expand their skills, knowledge base and the value they bring to their organization. As such, if you complete an internship in college, it’ll be easier to secure a desirable position post-graduation.
4. Internships Can, Often, Be Taken For Academic Credit
It’s becoming increasingly common for academic institutions to accept internship experience in exchange for varying levels of credit toward a major. In these situations, students are given the option of completing a part-time internship instead of taking one or more classes over a semester/year.
This gives these students on-the-job experience (which pads their resume) while they simultaneously work toward graduating.
Though your situation may differ, it’s worth exploring whether this is offered at your college. And, if it is, strongly consider participating. Colleges recognize the unique value a relevant internship can have for their students. For this reason, they often help interested parties connect with local internship programs, making it all the easier to get your foot in the door.
5. Internships Help You Build a Network Within a Field
This final point has, perhaps, the largest long-term impact. As you’re probably aware, getting a great job and growing professionally is about two things:
- What you know
- Who you know
As a college student, and a first-time job seeker “what you know” will, in all likelihood, stack up comparably to what your peers know; you have the same degree and level of experience.
For that reason, “who you know” is especially important and valuable at this stage of your career. Having a network of connections within your desired field can take you a long way. These are the individuals you can reach out to for advice or answer any questions you have. Most importantly, though, your network can come in handy as your graduation day approaches and you need to find a job.
Without getting out there prior to graduation and making connections with like-minded professionals, it might be harder to get the job you want. This is one of the biggest benefits of having a college internship.
Sure, you get to do interesting work and apply what you’ve learned. That’s all great. The connections you make with fellow employees, managers and business leaders are priceless though. These will pay dividends for you for years to come.
How Do You Find and Get a Good Internship?
Now that you have a better understanding of where a college internship can impact your professional and personal life, you may be wondering how to find one.
In your local area, there are probably tons of excellent internship programs. That said, selecting the right one for you, and ensuring you get it, is another story. To help you do so, check out this article on How to Find and Get a Great College Internship (7 Tips).
Follow the insights outlined in that article and before you know it you’ll have an internship that helps you build a network, expand your skills and maybe even earns you academic credits.
ATS hires college interns for the summer every year. Interviews for our internship slots last from February to April. If you’re interested in applying for one of those and learning what a job in the transportation world has to offer, contact us at: Careers@ATSinc.com.
Finally, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re always happy to help you on your journey toward career success.