What Is an Internship and Why Should You Do One?

From boosting your resume to gaining real-world job experience, doing an internship can help sell you to future employers.

What Is an Internship and Why Should You Do One?

Internships put real-world experience under your belt.

The benefits of an internship are enough that you need to fully ignore the nightmarish Hollywood depictions of them a la The Devil Wear's Prada. You should wholeheartedly pursue an internship during college and/or over the summer. Why? For one thing, employers overwhelmingly point to internship experience as one of the most important factors they consider in hiring new college graduates for full-time positions.

What Is an Internship?

An internship is a structured experiential learning program offered for a fixed period of time by a company or other organization so that people (often students) can see what it's like to work in a certain field or industry. If you're a student, an internship allows you to practically apply the lessons you learn in the classroom to real-life situations.

On the flip side, what is an internship worth to employers? The answer, as it turns out, is plenty. Many employers consider an internship to be something of an extended job interview. Traditionally, job-offer rates for college graduates are very dependent on whether they had an internship, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Bonus: The average hourly pay for interns is over $19.

That's not all: In addition to positioning yourself for a job offer, there are other valuable reasons for doing an internship. Check out the following benefits of an internship for an all-star in training like yourself.

Beef Up Your Resume

Getting real-world experience under your belt and onto your resume is crucial; after all, prospective employers want to see that you bring a good set of professional skills to the table.

Still, you need to present your internship experience on your resume strategically if you want to impress future hiring managers. Focus on skills and results you achieved, not just the duties you performed. One way to do this is to quantify your achievements using impressive numbers. For example, instead of simply stating that you "wrote news releases," get more specific and say "wrote 25 news releases in a three-week period under daily deadlines."

Ideally, you also did something that improved the company's bottom line; for instance, "identified, researched, and recommended a new Internet service provider, cutting the company's online operating costs by 15%."

Figure Out What You Want to Do—and Don't Want to Do

If you think you know what type of job you want after college, do a test run through an internship. But make sure you match your career interests to the type of internship you do. Let's say you want to work in finance, you should intern at a financial company to make sure your notion of what it's like to work in finance might not match reality.

Moreover, figuring out what type of job you don't want while you're interning can help prevent you from accepting an ill-fitting job when you graduate.

Learn by Observation

One of the biggest benefits of an internship is that you get an inside scoop on the industry that can't be learned in any article or classroom. You can gain skills and knowledge just by interacting with company employees.

So, use your eyeballs to assess what the company culture is like. Do employees collaborate or work on projects individually? How many hours do people typically work? How do co-workers communicate?

Another way to learn through observation is to sit in on department meetings or conference/video calls. This can give you a better understanding of how the company operates.

Get Professional Feedback

As a college student, you've been graded on college papers and exams, but you probably haven't received feedback from someone who's actually working in the field. Granted, soliciting constructive criticism from your supervisor might require a little effort on your part since some managers are hesitant to volunteer feedback to their direct reports.

Getting pointers on your performance throughout the internship (read: don't wait until the end!) can help you develop and hone your skills.

Make Valuable Connections

What is an internship if not a fantastic networking opportunity? Take advantage of it! Do not miss out on internal networking while you're at the company. Have a Zoom meeting with a new team? Introduce yourself to people you don't know and then email one or two people individually to ask to learn more about their job. Or, simply ask your boss to virtually introduce you to workers in other departments.

Also, spend time building relationships with your fellow interns. Most likely, they're going to wind up being your industry peers.

Stay in touch with your new connections after the internship ends; otherwise, you could get overlooked when job openings pop up.

Find all internships on Monster.

What Is an Internship's Value? Pretty Much Priceless

Getting your foot in the door is one of the more challenging aspects of your career, but it pays off in droves—internships are just the start. Need some help finding a good internship? Set up a free profile on Monster and we can send you alerts for internship opportunities in your area of interest. We can help you get your career off to an awesome start.