Internships are short-term work experiences offered by companies and organizations. They're usually for university or college students to gain real-world working experience in their field of study, and they're often paid.
If there is one piece of advice I give anyone in school, it's "get an internship."
A little story
I attended a university with a 5-year program, two of those years being internships. They were short four-month working spells at different companies and cities. All my internships were in Quality Engineering, and I gained an immense amount of knowledge about the field and myself.
During my last stint, it was time to apply for full-time positions to line up jobs before graduating. I applied to a company that fit my criteria, and they called me in. During the interview, the interviewer looked at my resume and laughed.
"More than half the questions I have are already covered in your resume. Let's go through some of your internship experience and I'll ask some technical questions."
The interview was for 1 hour. We spent 30 minutes on questions, and I learned more about the team and work. If memory serves me right, I got the offer a day or two after.
When we returned for our final semester of university, it was apparent almost every single person in my class had a job lined up. Some people decided to continue their education.
Get an internship
Moral of the story? Get an internship! It doesn't matter what field you're in. Science, engineering, math, whatever. You will come out ahead, guaranteed. These are just some of the benefits:
✅ Learn more about yourself and others, growing your EQ.
✅ Make numerous connections with fantastic people. Some will be life-long friends.
✅ Gain a tonne of hands-on experience. This point is a huge one.
✅ Understand how companies and teams operate.
✅ Find out if your field of study matches what you want from your career.
✅ Get paid (most of the time).
✅ Gain references for future job opportunities.
✅ Opportunity to land a full-time job offer before graduating.
How do you get an internship?
If your school offers an internship program and facilitates the entire process, you're lucky. Be aware of critical application and interview dates. Knowing this before you apply to a university is essential, and it could sway your decision if you get accepted to multiple schools.
If your school doesn't have an internship program, many companies post their positions on their site. Search for them before you finish the school year. Seek them out at least four months before you complete your last semester of the year. Apply to the positions and aim to get a job for the duration of your break.
There are also school job fairs where companies pitch themselves and scout potential candidates. Make sure to attend and present yourself in the best possible manner. I've been asked a technical question on the spot before so prepare as though it's an interview.
If none of these are options, search for companies or organizations related to your field of study. Call them, email them, or connect with someone working there. Ask for an internship opportunity, even if unpaid.
In all cases, make sure to write a compelling resume, get it reviewed by multiple people (schools usually offer free resume reviews), prepare for interviews, show up on time, and do your best.
Get the most out of an internship
When we say you'll come out ahead, there are levels to this. If you slack off, having that experience on your resume will usually land you an interview, but your chances of a job offer decline. To get the most out of internships, you need to put your best foot forward.
Introduce yourself to as many people as possible. That includes other interns, and you'll often find they become your closest friends. Make sure to broaden your network beyond your core working team or discipline. Making these connections will help with your visibility and, most importantly, your learning.
Be professional in your communication and mannerism. Try to match the culture and professionalism of the organization and team. Be punctual and present for your work and meetings. Be reliable when someone gives you a task. Respect everyone, even if you disagree with them.
Learn From Others
Speak to others about their work and life experiences if they're comfortable sharing. Everyone has a different perspective, and each story is unique. With these experiences come tidbits of knowledge they probably would be happy to share. Each person has a set of skills you can learn from as well.
Learn Your Craft
The main goal of the internship is to learn your craft within your field of study. Take this time to experiment and absorb detailed knowledge about your work. Ask a lot of questions and seek insight on things beyond your core responsibilities. For example, if you're in the software industry, learn more than just how to code. Understand how to work with a team, the company processes, the roles and expectations of the Product Owner, Scrum Master, UX Designer, Quality Engineer, and Software Engineer.
Do Your Best
Do your best work when given a task. Go above and beyond. Aim to impress. You will stand out and master your craft faster. You'll also have a higher chance of being asked to join for another internship or better yet, get a full-time offer.
Ask for a mid-internship review from your manager. Suggest your manager collect feedback from your peers. Ask what you've done well and what you can improve.
Ask for an end-of-internship review as well. Follow the same pattern as before to know how you've progressed.
Make sure to have fun along the way. You'll create some of the best memories during this time. Play video games with your friends and peers, hike a trail, go to concerts, and explore the city.
Stay In Touch
Keep in touch with your colleagues and friends after the internship. Add as many people to LinkedIn as you can or get their emails. Reach out to them from time to time, asking how they're doing. You'll keep the connections alive, and you never know where that could take you. You might gain a mentor, make a life-long friend, land another internship, get a job offer, or learn something new.
Internships are a fantastic opportunity and one of the best investments you can make in yourself. You'll remember and cherish the experiences long after graduation. Get an internship, make the most of it, and propel your work and life to the next level.