Are Internships Necessary Stepping Stones in the Modern Work Force?
Internships: the traditional rite of passage for students as they transition from the world of academics to the workforce. Depending on the individual position, an internship might range from fetching coffee and doing administrative work to sitting in on important meetings and gaining meaningful work experience.
However, the workforce is changing. Many employers are now switching to hybrid or fully remote options. So, what does that mean for the future of internships? And in a work culture that’s evolving at light speed, are internships even necessary anymore? Here’s what you need to know.
Internships Can Still Offer Valuable Experience
Let’s get one thing out of the way: internships can still offer entry-level professionals great experience. Being in the classroom is very different from being in a work environment and it’s important for students to get a feel for what it’s like to work in the field on a daily basis.
Depending on the company, interns will get a chance to really put their theoretical knowledge into practice. They might even be able to work on some projects that can be used as portfolio pieces. When the time comes to find a job, that experience can be extremely valuable.
Your Field REALLY Matters
Internships are expected in some fields, while in others, they’re considered optional. MBA programs, for example, often place students in internships so they can start gaining experience and making connections in the business world. Medical students and nursing students also must gain clinical experience before they can begin their professional careers.
On the other hand, those with degrees in computer science, for instance, might not need to have any internship experience to get an entry-level job. Ask your instructors and advisors about whether or not you need an internship in your field so you can set yourself up for success.
Are Internships Ethical?
Organizations can benefit from hiring interns in a few ways. First, they can bring someone on to help with lower-level tasks and get extra assistance during busy times. They can also scout for new talent by bringing interns on and hiring the most promising candidates.
One of the biggest problems with internships is the potential for abuse. Some companies routinely use interns to avoid hiring employees, which can be illegal. Some internships are paid and some are not, but regardless, it’s important to take internships only at companies that are treating their interns fairly and providing them with valuable experience.
Paid internships can help ensure that employers aren’t skirting around any labor laws. However, another good way to ensure an internship is ethical is to go through your college or university and earn credit for the work you do. Benefits need to go both ways for an internship to be a positive and beneficial learning experience.
Not All Internships Are Worthwhile
Unfortunately, your internship experience can end up being luck of the draw, to some extent. Some organizations simply don’t understand how to effectively benefit from an intern while teaching them valuable skills they need to have. Others see interns as a source of unpaid labor and exploit their work. It can be difficult to have a proper work-life balance with minimal to no pay.
It’s important for interns to provide feedback whenever possible, especially when the internship was set up through an academic program. Creating a strong program and a positive academic culture requires feedback from students — both positive and negative.
An Internship Can Help You Get Your Foot in the Door
Although the internship system isn’t perfect, it’s still an important part of the American workforce. Employers appreciate students who have real-world skills they can bring to the table. In the modern workforce, some of the skills you’ll need to succeed are hard to get in the classroom.
You might be able to get a job without an internship in some fields, but it might take significantly longer and be more challenging. Internships can help you get hired and provide leverage in your salary negotiations. An internship definitely won’t hurt your chances of finding a job after graduating and can certainly help in many cases.
Standing Out Will Get You Hired
Internship experience can give you a competitive edge. If you don’t have internship experience, however, don’t worry — it’s not usually a dealbreaker. Any job that requires real-world experience should set you up with an internship as you pursue your degree.
In any job search, your skills and abilities are what matter the most, and you just need to figure out how you can stand out for the right reasons, whether that’s volunteering, taking seminars, or building a portfolio. Once you’ve gotten your first job, it will be easier to get the next, and the next. An internship might be part of that journey, or you might not!