Six Ways Internships Provide Insights

I’m a huge believer in internships and feel they should be widely offered at all levels from Junior year in High School on up. Over the years I’ve had over a hundred interns work for people within my staff or myself. We’ve hired many into full time or part time jobs. These interns learned a lot about publishing and at the same time we got a good look at their skills and interests.

While I was publisher of Nevada Magazine from 1986 to 1992 we had a number of interns from both the University of Nevada and from a local high school. All but one of these was a very positive story. A young lady was working in our Editorial Department and after she’d been there about two months I could tell she was not happy. I brought her into my office and asked what was wrong. She shared that all of her life she’d wanted to be a journalist and she was graduating this semester with a degree in journalism. This was the FIRST TIME she’d ever worked as a journalist and she could tell it was much different than the movies (All the President’s Men was big at that time) and she didn’t know what to tell her parents who had funded her education. While I couldn’t solve this young lady’s problem, this situation forever opened my eyes up more to the need to do internships EARLY and OFTEN.

Ways internships provide insights:

  1. To get hired into a career. Today rarely is anyone hired into a meaningful career without meaningful experience in that field. What’s the best way to get that experience? Through internships.
  2. Learn from fellow workers. You learn from your fellow workers what they think about their career choice – and you hear both the positives and negatives.
  3. To gain current knowledge. Your college professor may have worked in a particular field 10 or 20 years ago, but the business that you will have your internship at is in that field TODAY working with current technology and needs.
  4. To do better in your classes. Often what you learn from internships will make coursework easier in your various classes. Once I started doing internships I could not believe how much easier all my college classes seemed to be.
  5. Unpaid internships lead to PAID internships. The best way to get a paid internship is to do one or two unpaid internships first.
  6. MOST IMPORTANTLY: Finding the right Career. In most cases a variety of internships will help you decide on what career you’ll enjoy far better than any course you’ll ever take.

Three phases of internships:

High School. Try doing one or two relatively brief internships in industries that you think you might want to eventually work in. Do not worry that they might be unpaid. You will most likely be working in a support position such as helping with mailings, copy work, basic data entry, etc. Keep your eyes open and be listening. What you learn here will help you decide if you like this profession – and how offices operate.

One of my first internships was with a political campaign. I was silk screening posters, something my father had taught me when I ran for office in junior high. Where the silk screening was being done was right outside the office where the candidate had all his meetings. I got to hear everything that was going on while I did my work. I listened intently and went on from a very minor roll in that election to serve as staff or manage 24 different campaigns.

Your first two years of college. I know you will be busy with many other things your first few years of college, but please try to find time for at least one internship. Once again, don’t worry if it isn’t paid – all of this will pay off in the long run. As you get older and more experienced, you will start having employers in professions you might want to go into asking if you want a paid internship, a part time job, or a full time job for the summer. In most cases today you have to do unpaid internships before you are going to get paid ones.

The rest of college. If you have followed the two steps above you should now be able to get most of the internships that you really want. Look at it though the employers eyes: you now have a variety of office experiences at increasingly professional skill levels. This is what an employer wants for those meaningful paid internships and summer programs where you are working with trained professionals. You are now becoming a person that will get the internships you want – and in the future, the jobs you want.

Good luck with your internships.

By Kirk Whisler