You always hear you’ll need a good education in order to get a good job, but anyone who’s ever applied for one knows that it takes more than just a certificate or degree to get a paycheck. Before you can get a job, you need to be considered for it. Before you can ‘Wow’ them with your wit and charm, you’ll need to convince them you’re worth meeting.
And how do you do that? You create the best damn cover letter you can, spell check the hell out of that resume, and let’s hope it includes some goals you’ve accomplished both in and out of the classroom.
If it doesn’t, or, maybe if it does, you still need some straight up, entry-level experience to stand out from the crowd. So, call in some favors from family and friends, beg and plead, and if it comes down to it, work for free. Yup, I said it. For free. (Note: In most states, an unpaid internship is only legal if you are in school and can do so through your college in an approved manner. If you’re out of school, you may have to work almost for free: for very low pay. Basically the same thing.)
I know that nobody wants to work for free, but here’s 5 reasons why you should:
Employers want to see experience. Before they take you on as an employee, they’ll want to know that you’re employable. They want to see that someone else already took that risk on you, and it worked out okay (unless you’re like me and you were let go from an unpaid position, but that’s another story for another time).
An internship will show them that you’re not afraid to put in the time to learn. You’ll do those coffee runs and complete those tedious tasks over and over because you know that it will get you where you want to go. It will convey that you are ambitious, and serious…and that is an immediate edge.
It allows you the opportunity to test drive your career. You’ve studied it, written about it, watched movies and even been tested on it, but like most things in life, you won’t really know if you like it until you try it. Taking on an internship is a great way for you to see if you are any good at this craft, or better yet, even like it.
You’ll develop skills. Being in the workplace will not only help you gain confidence, it will teach you about teamwork, and how to communicate in a professional and formal manner. You can only get so much out of books, but now, you’ll get to put it into action.
In our small company, nearly every single one of us was an intern at one point and we are proud of the summer internship program we offer. We understand the importance of getting hands-on experience and building your resume, and once a year we choose a candidate to work a few hours a week. Our program provides them with the opportunity to engage with clients, use social media as a tool, and execute promotional campaigns. They receive training in customer service, knowledge of working in databases like Filemaker Pro and content management systems, marketing strategies, execution and efficiency.
And hello… they get to work with us – a successful female-run corporation with a pretty sweet company culture if I must say so myself! We offer a lot and it’s a good deal.
Still in school? Use it for credit. Most colleges will offer internships for college credit. And thank God they do, because who really has the time to volunteer, study, keep that waitressing job, and still enjoy college? Ask your professors what requirements are needed and for any recommendations. If you’re going to put in the hours, why not have them go towards finishing your education?
On top of that, it’s not unusual for internships to result in paid positions. A college graduate with a job out the gate? What parent wouldn’t be proud?
Finally, it allows you to take risks. Quite possibly the best reason to intern is that when (and there will be a when) you make a mistake, no one will be shocked. Like most firsts in life, you’re going to mess up. So why not do it in an environment where you weren’t brought on to be perfect, or to have all the answers? Let’s face it, in some cases you’ll be lucky to have ‘an’ answer. (I’m really selling this whole “internship” thing, aren’t I?)
You’re there to learn and learn you will. You’ll learn how to deal with pressure, deadlines, the words ‘no’ and ‘do it over again’, you’ll meet disappointment head on and yes, you might even fail. Henry Ford says it best with “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”
So go for it, let this be what it’s supposed to be: a learning experience. Test yourself, stretch yourself and make these mistakes now, then use it to make you better. Every job interview that I’ve ever had I have heard the question, “Give me an example of a time when you royally messed up. What did you do?” They aren’t looking to hear an exaggerated story of how you blew it, they’re looking to hear how you recovered from it. How it became a situation that you learned from as opposed to one you let define you.
Bottom line, making the time and commitment to complete an internship will help you stand out and be more valuable as a potential employee. So take one on and better yourself, grow, be uncomfortable only to become confident, and in the end, you’ll get more than just a job out of it.