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The True Value of an Internship

Internships Teach Valuable Skills


Garment Factory Worker Teaching a Demo
Cavan Images/Iconica/Getty Images

By Ann Blasick

Although your internship may not be what you expected, is there some value you can take from the experience and turn it into a learning experience that works to your advantage?

What should you do if you consider your internship to really be a waste of time?

I’d challenge any student to consider two factors that are often neglected when weighing the value of an internship:

Internships can teach you more about what you do AND what you don’t want to do. No one’s career path is a straight line. Everyone starts off with a vision of their ideal job, but this vision is really just a guess based purely on hypotheticals. A funny thing often happens when someone starts working at their ideal job, they realize it’s not so ideal for them after all.

Would you rather make this realization as an intern or as a full-time hire after graduation?

Internships are a unique opportunity that you will never again encounter throughout your career. This is your chance to test drive different positions to see which ride you enjoy most. Utilize it! Use your summers (and maybe even a fall or spring semester if your school allows it) to intern.

Internships provide you with INVALUABLE soft skills:

Ideally an internship will provide you with work experience that is directly related to your major. If your internship falls short in this department, keep in mind that you are learning something else that may be even more valuable in the long run. ALL internships teach you soft skills, and every employer is looking for soft skills (which is why behavioral interviewing is so prevalent).

Most employers rank interpersonal, communication and teamwork skills above technical aptitude. There’s no better way to acquire these skills than to jump into a corporate environment. It doesn’t matter if you’ll be working for a small start-up or a Fortune 500 company. Regardless you’ll be learning firsthand how to work with coworkers of all ages, function in a staff meeting, wrestle with a fax machine, communicate with a supervisor, and maybe even navigate the company picnic.

This is truly on-the-job training! You may not personally see a difference in yourself, but I promise you will leave a bit wiser, more mature, more confident, and a better candidate for the next internship or full-time job.

Reader's Respond: If you have ever completed an internship that you felt was a huge waste of time, we want to hear your story.

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