Instead of making my own top ten reasons for doing a summer internship, I decided to do some research online to compile a list based on what career professionals are saying. Below are a list of the top 10 reasons to do a summer internship. To compile this list, I took the reasons from 10 different reference articles and put in order based on the number of times each reason was mentioned.
Gain real world work experience
All ten of the articles I studied included gaining real work experience as one of the top reasons for participating in a summer internship. All of the career coaches believed that gaining real experience helps everything from improving the candidate’s chance of impressing potential employers, to making sure they have skills that they can use to ensure success when they start a new job. Summer internships give students a chance to gain these skills while they are still in school, a time when it is difficult to gain actual employment because of the short duration and limited amount of time students have available. And compared to a summer job flipping burgers, a summer internship is an opportunity to get experience that is going to become valuable for the participants career objectives, unless of course that person is interested in becoming a chef.
Develop and/or build on skills
8 out of 10 experts included the chance to pick up or improve on new skills as an important aspect of being a summer intern. In fact, in most cases, students can even focus on a few skills to hone in on and really get a leg up once they start real work. Unlike their inexperienced peers, they will be able to start their jobs with the ability to add value as soon as they start. These interns will need less of a probation time learning about the industry because they already went through that phase of work.
Network, network, network
Whether learning how to or perfecting the art, networking is one of the top reasons for summer interning and is included in seven of the ten lists that I read. As a chance to spend valuable time in an actual office, interns have invaluable access to colleagues in different levels all in an industry that they are considering as their future career path. Coaches believe that in many cases, because they are interns, they have a special level of access that might be closed off even to actual employees. In a way, because of their status as “young and short term” support, they can get advice and help from even the CEO who has a responsibility to nurture these new comers. On top of that, many interns have the chance to attend networking events outside of the office and build a list of contacts that they can reach to after they graduate.
Improve the resume
6 out of 10 articles mentioned that the experience gained on a summer internship greatly improves the resumes of those participants. In many cases, this is the only chance that many students have of putting actual work experience on their CV that is significant for the employer. Intern experience also shows companies that these candidates are willing to sacrifice their free time to gain important skills and experience. If communicated effectively, these experiences can really make a resume competitive.
Lead to a full time job at the company
Five of the ten writers point to the fact that interning in a company could also lead to a full time job at that same company. Many companies agree, and say that these students have a chance to really impress their supervisors and show what they can bring to the company if they were hired for full time work. This is an unbelievable amount of access that a regular job candidate would never have and has led to new hires of past interns with significantly less experience compared to others. Some companies even mention that internships can also lead to opportunities in other companies where supervisors can make
Test drive a career
4 out of 10 advisers agree that even a bad experience can lead to great things. My company has been placing students into short term internships in China for over 5 years and we’ve had many realize that the industry that they thought they wanted to get into was not all that it was cracked up to be (at least for them). However, most were happy to find this out doing a short term stint, rather than realizing this after a few days into an actual job. I am a firm believer, and I say this all the time, if given the chance, students should start participating in summer internships starting their freshman year or even as early as high school so that they can test drive a few different industries before they decide what company to apply for after they graduate.
Four out of ten articles include building references as one of the most important reasons to do a summer internship. It’s one thing to have a ton of references from your professors, and another to have them from supervisors of the company that you interned for during your summers. These references are from actual people working in the industry you are looking to get a lead in that have much more weight for the potential employer. If nothing else, make sure to always be enthusiastic and work really hard on any projects that you are assigned so that you can get some valuable references from your supervisors.
Find the right career path
Four of the career coaches believe that interning helps people find the right path to their chosen career. “Knowing” what field your passionate about is only half the battle. There are tons of different jobs even in the same industry or company, so what better way to figure out what you love doing than through a short term stint in a company where you are free to learn new things. Most smart interns know that working on projects that they are assigned is just a small part of their new responsibilities. Many look forward to “downtime” so that they can go around and meet other colleagues and find out what other things are going on in the company. If asked, I always tell people that working for smaller startups can lead to far more rewarding experiences than working in a set process driven program in a large corporation. You might not get the brand recognition to include on your resume, but you usually have the freedom to work on a different number of tasks rather then being cubby holed into one project. If your lucky, you will also find that one thing that you really love doing and learn what path is right for your career.
Apply classroom concepts to real work life
Two writers also note the importance of being able to take knowledge learned in the class and apply them to work in the office. Not only does practice make perfect, but it also reinforces the fact that these theoretical theories and concepts that professors keep rambling about are actually useful in real life. Although education is a pretty expensive way to learn how to effectively socialize, there are important things to be learned, if you know where to look.
Although only one mentioned this, I think it is worthy of being included in the top ten. As a student, we have very few chances to really contribute ideas that really make a difference. I think most of us forget this once we start working, building up our strengths along with an ego as we climb the ladder of success. In a way, learning that as an intern, we can share ideas and even possibly make a difference can become a humbling experience that we can keep with us when we get to that manager level. Our supervisors helped to instill some confidence yet reminded us that great ideas can come from anywhere, even the lowly intern. And a healthy dose of humble confidence will help to ensure that we become great managers in the future.
There are a ton of other reasons to do a summer internship that I could not include in this list but might be just as important for you.