Graduation time is the period all students look forward to. Most would usually use this time to bum at home or go out with friends. Others go on and have vacations out of town. The remaining group would use this period to find a full-time job. I, on the other hand, took an unpaid, 7 AM to 5 PM internship which involved me grinding my way to get qualified meetings for the Business Development people to close. Was it worth the money, energy, and shortened sleeping hours? Definitely.
Looking back, if there is one thing I would change, I would have done my internship before graduation. Here are reasons why:
1. YOUR RESUME WILL STAND OUT
This is usually the most obvious and automatic reason why most want to take on an internship. After graduation, you will not have to go through an internship like I did, but instead go straight for a full-time job. It will even help if you did something that showed quantifiable results that have significantly added value to the company during your internship
Although this really is a great advantage, I don't recommend taking an internship solely for this reason.
2.VAluable professional connections
My internship position was called Market Development, wherein my primary task was to get new opportunities or leads who would greatly benefit from our products. We could be creative about it and approach it any way we liked, as long as we got the desired results. But the primary method we used to go about it was to go on LinkedIn, connect with decision-makers and HR professionals and correspond with them through e-mail campaigns and cold calls.
Because of this primary activity alone, my LinkedIn account grew to more than 1,000 connections. Left and right, people would message me either offering opportunities or simply sharing ideas. Imagine if this was 1 year before I graduated, I would have had a lot of opportunities I took even before getting that diploma.
So far, I would say I had more than 20 conversations with people on LinkedIn alone and the topics would range from music, recruitment, payroll, to programming, coding, and marketing. These are not just your typical everyday people that I chat with, but rather they are decision-makers or people who really are passionate and deep in their craft.
Of course, this advantage isn't something exclusive to a sales internship like the one I had. Even just knowing the people in your workplace who are more experienced than you is already an advantage considering you will learn a lot of valuable insights and knowledge and they might even introduce you to other people in their network that makes them valuable connections.
3. Valuable Mentoring
With people and connections you meet while getting your internship, there will be a few who will inevitably stand out and give you lessons that aren't just for the professional world, but for life in general.
Yes, schools have a lot of great professors who are very knowledgeable in their fields, and they can give you valuable insights — they could also be your life mentor, if you wish to ask them. However, this could be a challenge since most teachers hold hundreds of students every semester and they have a lot of papers and tests to read and grade.
In a professional environment, collaboration and communication are highly encouraged, which means that as an intern, you will definitely be working side by side with your more knowledgeable and more experienced superiors you can ask questions, advice, and perhaps even suggest ideas to. Being someone who was oblivious to the professional world, I would say I learned a lot of valuable life and career lessons that I still take to heart to this day.
The bottom line is you get a deep and intimate relationship and not just one between a manager and an employee.
4. You'll acquire skills you may never get in school
Holding a conversation and crafting meaningful e-mails that get opens and replies are some of the most basic professional skills everyone should have. And yet, no matter how good the reputation of the university is, I have never heard of anyone saying "Hey, I learned how to e-mail from (insert name of great school here)."
Someone will either teach you how at work, or you'll end up figuring them out just through doing them. For me, one essential skill I had to learn through experience is handling rejections. There is no other way to teach this other experiencing it firsthand through the hundreds of rejections I would get every day through cold calls and e-mails.
Other examples are phone skills (a rare skill nowadays), time management, contingency planning, and negotiation.
5. You will get a whole new perspective
Getting an internship involves one getting out of their comfort zone and doing things that they are not used to doing on a regular basis.
While doing my internship, I had to call decision-makers and HR professionals out of the blue with about 90-100% chance that I'll be rejected. But that doesn't mean that my goals and objectives should change just because there were a lot of roadblocks.
I had to work around the situation, research, read cold-calling books and articles, talk to cold-calling experts on LinkedIn, and get advice from Hubspot experts so that I would at least get a few more leads.
The lesson I learned is that no matter how hard a situation is, your goals should not change — it's the way you approach the situation that should change.
If only I had this realization during the summer vacation of my second or third year in college, I could just imagine how (positively) different my last 2 years of college might have been. Of course, this is just one of the many realizations you could have while doing an internship.
The best thing about internships is they will improve the way you approach your work, academic or otherwise.
Yes, enjoying your summer vacation every year is great and it's fun, no doubt about that. But also consider taking an internship — it has a lot of advantages that I guarantee you will reap as you go through your professional career.