Are internships valuable career related experience, career connections, future job opportunities, or free labor? The answer is a all of the above, but it’s up to the intern to pick the best opportunity and arrange for the most rewarding experience.
Each year, college students spend thousands of dollars getting academic education with little or no field experience and job related training. Employers are reluctant to hire an inexperienced college student and train them at their cost or to be liable for an inexperienced student’s inability to deliver. And students are not likely to always get the required career training and connections from college.
Students are also unlikely to get mentors and a career related network through college. Professors and guest speakers are great sources, but perhaps not enough.
Internships are a great way to gain career related experience and build a portfolio containing related experience and tangible results. They are also a great opportunity to connect with mentors, career network, and future employers. And employers tend to hire their own successful interns, or their competitors’. However, students have to be prepared to invest the time to learn and to contribute some level of work to the company in exchange for the free training. After all, look at the time and money invested in college degrees just to walk out often with minimal work experience and dismal work opportunities.
Internships have to offer valuable career experience. That doesn’t include preparing coffee and picking up laundry. It’s up to the students to determine their career path and the experience and connections required to get there. Then find internships that fit, or even create their own
opportunities by proactively approaching companies. If the internship appears to offer minimal value, turn it down. And where appropriate, it never hurts to negotiate a better arrangement.
Unpaid internships in some states are illegal. And paid internships can be minimum wage jobs unrelated to a student’s career development requirements. However, they can be a rewarding experience for students to build their profile. But students have to proactively search for a
fitting internship and negotiate the most suitable arrangement.