7 Things You’ll Learn During Your First College Internship


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Considering taking an internship position? Internships are excellent opportunities for students looking to add a bit of real-world experience to their college resume, all while making professional connections and familiarizing themselves with an intended career track. Though you might not connect the dots now, you’ll soon learn that internships give first-time job seekers a competitive edge, which makes the post-grad career hunt more successful and less stressful. (Whew! What a relief, huh?)

Aside from the expected benefits of an internship, there are several, more subtle perks you’ll take away from your experience that will aid your professional and personal life. Think about it: you’ve spent many years in an educational setting, not an office or other place of business – so, you can bet that your internship will teach you a lot about the working world and adulthood in general.

Depending on where you’re at in your collegiate life, graduation might still seem like lightyears away. It will sneak up on you before you know it, though, and your friends at uCribs urge you to complete an internship while you still can, as it’s the best way to learn if your career will suit you in the future. Not to mention, it will teach you a multitude of different skills, fueling your future with immense potential.

#1: The clarity you need for your career goals.

A virtual show of hands, please: how many of you have fallen head over heels for a career track, only to learn that the nitty gritty details of that dream job don’t align with the future you’ve envisioned for yourself? Maybe you spent your childhood years dreaming of becoming an attorney, only to realize that your adult self hates public speaking. Or, perhaps, you’ve always wanted to be a social worker, but you don’t think you can handle the extra years of schooling required to earn your Master’s degree.

As inconvenient or downright painful as it might be, coming to these types of conclusions is crucial when you’re a college student trying to forge a fruitful career path. Fortunately, one of the best ways to explore life in a potential career track is to sign up for an internship in the field—an opportunity that’s typically available to all college students. The hands-on experience you’ll receive as an intern will help you evaluate the expectations and requirements of the career from a more concrete perspective, for better or for worse. Even if you complete your internship with zero desire to pursue the degree you thought you wanted, at least you’ll be one step closer to figuring out what you do want to spend your days doing once you get that diploma.

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#2: The time management and organizational skills you desire.  

Most people would agree that it’s important to get a grip on your time management and organizational skills when you’re still a college student, as doing so makes coursework so much easier. Even still, it’s really up to you how much— or how little –you want to prioritize things, like maintaining a sensible study schedule or organized work space. Everyone works differently, so you may very well be able to find a sense of calm in chaos. If that’s the case, more power to you! However, if you’re hoping to land an internship, know that there will come a time when you’ll be expected to change your ways, at least while on the job.

To put it simply, staying on top of your responsibilities is crucial if you want to make a good impression throughout your internship. Your supervisor is guaranteed to value both time management and organization, so if you want t this experience to translate to the real world – which you do! – you will inevitably have to learn how to master these two arenas. Don’t worry, it’s not as hard as it sounds and can easily be picked up with practice – just like anything else in life.  Pretty soon, you’ll be wondering how you ever made it through a night of studying without a regimented break-down of the material and color-coded notes.

#3: The reality of day-in, day-out employment.

As we all now know, internships introduce you to the ins and outs of your dream job. But, have you ever considered the fact that internships will also teach you how to actually go to work? It might sound crazy but entering the workforce as a young adult and dealing with the less fun aspects of working – like, you know, actually showing up to your job every day – can be a difficult adjustment, especially if you haven’t had any professional job experience prior to graduation.

Not only will your college internship teach you the ropes of gainful employment, but it will also enlighten you to aspects of the working world that college counselors don’t always prepare you for. Understanding office politics, building friendships with co-workers, navigating relationships with your superiors – and, yes, showing up to your place of employment in a timely and consistent manner – are just a few of the areas you’ll explore as a new intern. And, spoiler alert: they’re all crucial to a productive and satisfying career later down the line!

#4: The lesser-known skills required for the job.

Some careers go hand-in-hand with expected skillsets. Educators should rank high in the areas of patience and selflessness, computer scientists need razor-sharp problem-solving skills, and accountants must have an eye for accuracy. However, no job is as cookie-cutter as textbooks and online resources have led us to believe. The truth is, you’ll need a wide range of hard and soft skills to flourish in your job of choice. While your hard skills will display your competence in the subject matter, such as writing lines of code, your soft skills will make you an enjoyable and effective employee—like the selflessness a teacher, who takes on a heavy workload even after class, must embody. Where better to learn what hard and soft skills your future employer will value than an internship?

Taking an internship is a great way to get up close and personal with your intended career path and learn more about the skills that professionals in the field possess. Some of them may surprise you! For example, you might assume a position with a local news station, thinking that broadcast journalism is all about presentation skills and form-fitting suits; in reality, you’ll need next-level copywriting and research skills to make it to the top. Take it from us – you’ll be happy that you learned about these lesser-known skill sets once you begin sending out those initial post-grad job applications.

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#5: The difficulties of navigating professional criticism.

As a college student with little to no professional job experience under your belt, you can safely assume that your internship supervisors won’t expect you to repeatedly pump out flawless work. Actually, it’s more likely that you’ll mess up a time or two – or even on a daily basis. Instead of getting discouraged by this very likely possibility, you need to understand that having the ability to mess up and receive constructive criticism on your work is a serious blessing in disguise and will help you transform into a beautiful butterfly of a working professional.

Want to know a little secret about the working world? Regardless of the profession, most employees’ days are filled with submitting a task and receiving constructive criticism on it from their peers and/or supervisors, before making the necessary changes and submitting the task again. This cycle might even continue a few more times before a task is deemed complete. Needless to say, professional criticism is a given in the working world, so getting comfortable with it now will only make you a stronger candidate when you’re vying for your first, real out-of-college job.

#6: The importance of dedication and good, hard work.

Earning a paycheck, however small it is, feels really good when you’re starting to find your way in the working world. Little compares to feeling like you’ve truly earned your pay and being able to spend it however you see fit. But, one place you shouldn’t bank on earning income is your college internship – get it? While certain employers do offer paid internship positions, it’s more likely that you’ll be working for college credit instead of cold, hard cash while you’re starting to get your sea legs in a professional environment.

On that note, here’s the sixth thing you’ll learn at your first internship: the value of a day’s worth of hard work. As an intern, the most important thing you can do is flex your insane work ethic by knocking out tasks left and right. This is bound to impress superiors with your professionalism, which may lead to a future opportunity with the company or, at the least, a great reference for your resume. Though picking up the company-wide Starbucks order might seem trivial now, every small assignment can lead to something bigger, and you can bet that your superiors will remember and make note of your steadfast dedication and great attitude when you ask them for recommendation letters. No doubt about it: there are plenty of benefits of your internship that ultimately outweigh compensation—but hey, if you get that, too, it definitely won’t hurt.

#7: The natural ability or potential you possess.

Have you ever been told that “experience is the best teacher?” This oft-repeated phrase was allegedly first coined by none other than Julius Caesar, who recorded a version of it way back in 52 B.C. If you ask us, we think this timeless statement could be applied to college internships, particularly when it comes to discovering the passions, natural abilities, and potential that you – and only you – possess.

While college is great for introducing you to life after high school, rarely do classes and lectures alone equip you with the hands-on experience needed to translate years of education into a prosperous career. That’s where internships come in. Instead of spending your days reading books relevant to your ideal job, internships allow you to use your knowledge in a real-life environment, all while pushing you to think strategically and work for the greater good of your chosen organization. Sure, it can be hard work, but it’s all worth it when you realize how much you can thrive in the right job environment.

Regarded by many as the cherry atop a fulfilling college career, internships open you up to a world of post-grad possibilities. Not only will a good internship show you the ropes of a job in your intended field of study, but it will also help you master lesser-known – but still crucial – skills needed to excel in your career. Hard-learned lessons, such as learning organizational skills or how to handle criticism, might sound trivial at the moment, but trust us, they can make all the difference once you’re on your own in the fast-paced working world. So, go ahead, bite the bullet, and accept that internship opportunity where you can look forward to learning many invaluable skills, like the 7 listed above.

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Amelia Woolard is a graduate of Millsaps College, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Communications Studies and an Art History minor. A native of Jackson, Mississippi, Amelia moved to New Orleans in 2014 to begin her career in marketing and design. She is particularly interested in the intersection of art and language, and enjoys projects that merge the two fields. Amelia is an avid yet critical pop culture consumer and a loving mother to her cat Faulkner.

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