Do I Need an Internship or Not?

Career Administrator

University students are eager to find opportunities either due to genuine interests or peer pressure. Finding internships is one of the lingering topics among students, and students who secure internships will be asked frequently by peers of how they find those internships. Doing internships almost becomes a default that students have to do some time during college years. While one needs working experience to build the resume, it has more long-term effects to think about what internships could do for you than only focusing on the quantity of things you do. One question that may help to break down the internship myth is to think: what kinds of skills you want to gain and what specific internships you should undertake.

Common sense is that every industry needs certain sets of skills, and it is true. Conducting scientific research has different procedures compared to writing journalistic reports, for instance. Gaining working experience, therefore, is to understand the characteristics of a particular industry and practice relevant skills. Taking an internship in a local news agency, for example, will enable a Media Studies student to have hands-on experience of pitching story ideas, conducting interviews, and producing contents. In this process, the student will be trained on thinking critically and working around deadlines.  

On the other hand, you do not need to have a high expectation of learning everything through one internship. It is not a nightmare if you find the organization or your job duties totally different from what you imagined - you can still learn something. Using my own experience interning in a business news agency in Morocco as a testimony, My French level was not high enough for me to do editing jobs, so I was told to follow the journalists, look how the office runs, and study some important resources since they have been used as story coverage. I invested myself in fast-paced daily routines, and learned how each sector contributed to produce the final product. Although I did not write as many articles in French as I expected, this internship was the best opportunity to practice my French.

In summary, doing internships goes way beyond building your resume. For first and second year students, you could testify your interests in particular industries and sharpen skills that will have long-term benefits; for upper-class students, you could build professional connections and be more confident of utilizing skills in more challenging tasks. It is worthwhile to spend some time thinking what outcomes you want to obtain after a working experience before applying to a bunch of positions merely for the sake of applying.

Some resources (among many) that you might find helpful

http://career.virginia.edu/internships/search#Where to Search

http://career.virginia.edu/networking

http://career.virginia.edu/resumes/creating-your-resume/formatting-your-resume

http://career.virginia.edu/interviews/interview-types#Behavioral Interviews

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