Should You Consider an Internship After You Graduate?

Thu, Aug 23, 2012

Internship Interview

Many students labor under the misconception that they can only obtain internships while they’re in school. And while many internship opportunities are geared towards students with the goal of helping them to learn in a real-world setting in addition to the classroom, the fact is that you don’t necessarily have to be enrolled in college in order to get an internship. The reason is that there are actually two main categories of internship. The one that you are probably most familiar with is unpaid, and the tradeoff for showing up is that you get college credit for your time, not to mention the experience of having a job without the pressure to perform (although you will have to observe some rules, like showing up on time and doing as you’re told). The second type of internship is paid, and these are offered less frequently for obvious reasons (why pay an intern when you can get one for free and hire a pro for the paid position?).

There are several reasons why you might want to consider a paid internship after you complete your degree program, but these days the main agenda is simply to get anything that’s paying. While you could certainly nab a low-level, minimum-wage job in food service or retail (and you might actually make more money than you will with a paid internship), the fact that these jobs are little more than time wasters should be enough to steer you towards a position (no matter how low the pay is) with a company that fits the scope of your degree. It could turn into a better-paying job once the internship has been completed, and at the very least it will put some experience on your résumé. But there’s even more to it.

In some industries it is pretty well known that getting a job depends not on what you know, but who you know. Thanks to the recessions this is the case more often than not these days, even for industries that previously suffered no such conceit. By taking a paid internship you may find yourself on the bottom rung, but you’ll get more than just a measly paycheck out of the deal; you’ll have the opportunity to network with people in your industry, creating a list of contacts that have the potential to help you get better jobs down the line. They may be able to recommend you for positions within the company when your internship is done, but they might also have intel on positions opening up at other companies (thanks to their own network of colleagues). So you should jump on this opportunity to make friends and get ahead professionally.

It doesn’t take a degree in public administration to know that schooling is an important part of preparing for a career in your chosen field. But getting off campus, meeting people and gaining experience, is an essential piece of the puzzle. It may just happen that you don’t have time for an internship until after graduation, and if this is the case you shouldn’t hesitate to seek out paid internships, especially if you can’t seem to get a nibble on the many résumés you’ve sent out. It could just end up kick-starting your career.

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