Q: What can students get from internships that they might not necessarily get from their degree program alone?
A: Sorry to break it to you, but “real life” moves much quicker than any college textbook. Principals are foundational, but experience is vital.
Q: Do employers and recruiters place extra value on students who have participated in internships?
A: One hundred percent. Employers take a risk with hiring a new employee; to alleviate that risk, students validate their worth through internships. Prestigious internships showcase intelligence and diligence but landing them could also mean you just have good connections. Your manager at your internship, who knows your work and can give a good word, is where the extra value is. However, any internship can add value. Some of the most valuable things I learned from my five internships were soft skills. I learned how to work with different personality types, and I learned how my personality works best. I also learned how to communicate with managers, co-workers and the C-suite; efficiently take notes; hold a leadership role with peers; ask questions that are thinking five steps ahead; prevent challenging co-workers from getting to you; make friends at work; seek advice from a mentor; deal with stressful deadlines and missing marks. In addition, I came out of a summer internship with a tool-box on the pharmaceutical advertising industry, which has continuously been my most utilized asset in my current position.
Q: Is it enough to simply complete an internship, or do employers look for something more, like whether the internship is related to a student’s field of study or prospective career?
A: I’d say it depends on what type of internships one is applying for. If you want to be an accountant, then yes, an accounting internship is vital, but if you are still exploring areas, try out different things! I hated one of my internships in New York, but that experience and name on my resume gave me enough credibility to apply to the internship I ultimately wanted. It was there that I learned what I wanted to do: health care technology. I had no idea that this was going to be my path, but it was a curiosity and eagerness to try that got me there.
Q: What are some things students should look for when choosing internships that are a good fit for them? In other words, how can students find meaningful internships rather than “resume fillers?”
A: Look at the people. Are they inspired, fulfilled and excited for the company? Consider also taking an internship in a startup; there you can wear many hats. Through OhanaHealth, I was placed at a seed-stage venture capital firm. I run marketing, deal source email campaign, create video content, write blogs on health care trends, run social, create databases, write investor reports, analyze company data and pitch to the press. That’s a whole lot more exposure than a corporate company can typically provide.
Q: Many internships are competitive; how can students make themselves good candidates for internships?
A: Authentic initiative. You can no longer rely on a resume to get you an internship; one has to take the reigns, make genuine connections and continuously show up. Tangibly, this means making LinkedIn connections with those who have your dream job and grabbing coffee to pick his or her brain. Be authentic in your desire to connect, ask curious questions and, please, have good grammar.
Q: Besides work experience, are there other benefits to doing internships in college?
A: Connections: your network is your most valuable asset. Having work experience matters, but having those coworkers, managers or even the CEO on your team who can vouch for you, your character, work ethic and passions can matter more. At the internship, try going to meetups and industry events. Dive in as if you were an employee. Go out to eat with your coworkers and learn how to best balance life after college. It is quite a change to the 9-to-5 (or 8-to-7), and getting a taste of a shift in lifestyle for a summer helps a lot. I moved from Texas to New York for eight months without knowing anyone. The concept of meeting new people, learning to navigate the city, deal with angry power-walkers, uphold a tight budget and lug around a parka and snow boots was quite a challenge that was not only good for professional, but also personal development.
Q: What other insights or advice do you have for students who are trying to land quality internships while in college?
A: Sincerity will eventually shine through. If you are truly passionate about an industry, topic, career etc., then reach out and pursue it. Continuously apply your skills in any outlet – I think internships are great – and whether it is your favorite experience or not, you are validating your work ethic and character. If not internships, be the best lead on school projects, Greek life positions or clubs. Stay connected with your mentors, talk to your teachers after class and remember that the “dream job” is a build. Do internships, network, work hard, provide value – it will come.