My university constantly emphasized the importance of internships. On the first day of class as an upperclassman, it wasn’t uncommon for a teacher to tell students to share internships they’ve had as an ice-breaker. As an underclassman, professors would share resources that were available on campus to help us have stand-out resumes and cover letters. It was even more normal for one of my classmates to fit an experience they had at one of their internships into discussions in the classroom.
Throughout my four years, I started to realize more and more how this competitive internship culture permeated the campus. Each semester the entire campus would be in a frenzy when internship applications opened. Towards the end of the year, LinkedIn would become abuzz with announcements of where people were working. It seemed as though every student on campus was collectively stressed, as people juggled on-campus jobs, internships, club meetings, and a full-course load.
Although internships can be incredibly helpful in more ways than one. Not every student on campus has the time or financial ability to intern every semester in addition to the tasks they already have to complete. Luckily, nowadays, there are various ways to gain valuable experience outside of interning.
If you’re a college student surely you have heard the spiel about getting involved on your campus, and maybe at this point it makes you want to roll your eyes but you shouldn’t totally tune that advice out. Becoming a member or leader in a student organization can lead to you gaining new skills, having the chance to do hands-on work, and can still be a shining point on your resume. For example, if you are a PR major and you decide to join a club and become their point PR person you have the opportunity to create publicity materials, help promote events, and get your club organization out there into the public consciousness. All the while not having to leave your campus to do so.
College is an exceptionally busy time and not everyone has the ability to intern during the semester because of class and other obligations. Thanks to social media it has now become easier to get in touch with professionals in your desired industry. This can lead to informational interviews which serve as the perfect way to get insider tips and make connections at the same time. It can feel nerve-wracking to put yourself out there in this way, but informational interviews can lead to great opportunities.
Of course, everyone knows that college is supposed to give you the chance to delve into your desired career field and learn all that you can, but students don’t always take advantage of this. When you get assigned a project in class figure out all that you can do and see how it can add to your portfolio. For example, I had a class during my final semester that gave us the opportunity to create videos, podcast episodes, and learn how to create comics. Our professor allowed us to choose the topic for all of our projects and do hands-on work. That class gave each student material to add to their portfolios and new skills that they could discuss in future job interviews. Most classes in college have these built-in opportunities and students can easily reap the benefits.
While a part-time internship isn’t ideal for everyone, there are still ways to gain real-world experience. If you go to college in a major city or a small town there are businesses and organizations that exist outside of your campus that are looking for help. Build relationships with businesses in your college town or city and see when they’re having events or new product releases. Maybe you could photograph an event, help with social media, or assist with retail. These opportunities are not happening all the time and therefore could still work within a student’s busy schedule. Consider looking for these chances when next semester rolls around.
Start your own thing
Some people go into school and already know that working for someone else, no matter how beneficial, is not for them. With 21st century technology, it has now become easier than ever to start your own business. You can be the CEO, CMO, and CFO all rolled into one and you’ll be working around your own schedule. You’ll also be working in the field you already want to be in and gaining the necessary skills to succeed at the same time. Starting your own company can lead to numerous opportunities and be a jumping-off point to get you where you’d like to go.
Internships are valuable, but in recent years the way society has positioned internships as the end-all to be all is not necessarily true. Whichever way you can gain work experience in school is valuable. There is no reason to add more to your plate and continuously burn the candle at both ends if you don’t have to.