This post is part of the series, “Get The Job”. To see all posts in the series, click here.
It’s a well-known fact that internships will help you both in the short and long term, but most high-schoolers choose not to get an internship for various reasons. One of the biggest excuses I hear are “It’s unpaid, what will it do for me?” An internship is perhaps one of the most valuable experiences of your life as a young adult, but many willingly choose to miss out on them.
Here are a few reasons on why you need an internship as a high schooler/young adult:
Nobody Else Is Doing It
Nobody in high school or their first years of college is thinking about internships. This is exactly why you should be thinking about internships. If you have an internship on your resume or application when nobody else does, it makes you unique and speaks of your work ethic. Remember, the dopy old saying of ‘the early bird gets the worm’ applies here.
You Need Experience, Sooner Rather Than Later
A stunning 95 percent of employers said candidate experience is a factor in hiring decisions, according to an annual survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). Nearly half of surveyed employers wanted new-grad experience to come from internships or co-op programs. You need experience, there’s no way around it. If you are looking to work for an investment bank in the future, and have absolutely no experience in the field, do you really think that they will even consider you?
Experience shouldn’t be a chore, you should strive to get it. I personally wouldn’t like to walk into a paid job without knowing how the industry or position worked. In addition, with experience from an internship looks great on a CV or Resume, especially if you interned at a known company in the industry.
They Allow You To Experiment With A Career
Unfortunately, teens are encouraged to choose a career, and stick with it for the rest of your life. From high school, you enter college and immediately begin your major. There’s not much room to change once you enter the workforce and decide that that career is not for you (however, we will discuss this further in a future post). This is why an intern is an absolute necessity, and why you should do one ASAP.
Say you are thinking about becoming an accountant. You spend four years and a crazy amount of money on getting a degree in accounting and enter the workforce. A few months in, you realize that this is not for you. What can you do? You’re up s**t creek without a paddle.
If you intern in a career that you are thinking of, it allows you to see how the career actually is before you devote your life to it. You could see that the career path is perfect for you, and love it. You could hate it, and find a new career that suits you best.
You Gain The Most Valuable Skills Of Your Life
Teamwork, communication, leadership, and problem-solving skills. These are just a few skills that can only truly be learned in a workplace environment, and will be carried with you for the rest of your life. Think of an internship as the most important education of your life; for free!
You will also learn career-specific skills (ie. Excel for Accounting or Law for Lawyers). In the case of many internships, the skill that you will learn and carry with you thought your life is how to sell yourself. And, for most of these skills, you cannot fully learn them anywhere else than in the workplace.
Networking makes the world go round and could have a significant impact on your future. Mike Davidson, an executive at Twitter sums it up perfectly; “It’s all about people. It’s about networking and being nice to people and not burning any bridges … in the end, it is people that are going to hire you.”
Your life is defined by the people that you meet, and an internship is a perfect way to meet influential people as a young person. You can call upon the people that you meet for advice and referrals when you are job-hunting, looking for a partner, or anything else. Most people agree (myself included) that a network is the major contributing factor to success.
Prepare For A ‘Real Job’
The process of getting an internship is almost the same as a real job. You create a resume and cover letter. You go through the same or similar screening process. Most importantly, you go through a very similar interview process – in some cases, the interviewer asks the same questions as a real job interview.
The actual internship itself is usually similar to the job. You can’t slack off if you want to succeed, you need to learn people skills and you have similar responsibilities to actual employees. This section connects back to experience, but instead of specific experience, you get a general workplace skill set, and are much more prepared for your first job than peers who did not intern.
You Could Even Make Some Money
55% of internships are unpaid, and if you are going into the field with no related education, expect no pay. After all, interns (with no related education/experience) are usually a burden to employees. Think of it as free education (and it is!). However, there is still that 45% of internship that pay. If you play your cards right, you could end up being paid to learn as an intern. In addition, many interns return to their employee as paid employees in the future, or utilize their new found network contacts to find paid work elsewhere.
In the long term, internships will definitely make you more money. In a 2005 study, NACE reported that surveyed employers that hired entry-level candidates with internship/co-op experience paid them 6.5 more than those without the experience. That was in 2005; think about how much more this is today, with much of the middle class society holding a college degree. An internship is the differentiating factor that employers look for.
Your youth gives you the advantage here. Most young adults your age are not focused on their future, and going into the workforce. Getting a head start, and all the benefits above, will directly correlate with future success. Think of an internship as a shortcut through the maze of your financial and work life, and take it!
“What the wise do in the beginning, fools do in the end.”
― Warren Buffett