After interning in DC for the summer, I finally feel qualified to weigh in on the internship debate. I constantly hear classmates wondering if summer internships are really good learning experiences or if their time could be spent doing something more fulfilling or productive. Are you going to be doing life-changing, ground-breaking, world-altering work? Probably not. So if a bulk of your work isn’t flashy or a resume highlight, is a summer internship worth it to you? Absolutely.
1. You learn what it’s really like at a 9-5 job.
If you’ve had any previous work experience before starting your summer internship, you’ll probably think you know all about the 9-5 experience. That term time job you have working at the library? Nope, not the same. That part time summer job you had in high school working long hours a couple days a week? That’s not going to cut it either. If you weren’t working 9-5 Monday through Friday at said job, you haven’t truly experienced the 9-5 life. You learn how long your productive spurts really are and plan meetings around them to break up the workday. You learn ways to incentivize your work Friday afternoon when you really just want to start your weekend plans. You learn that the minutes between 3PM and 4PM are about four times longer than regular minutes…And that the minutes between 4PM and 5PM move at the speed of light when you’re trying to finish everything up. You don’t choose the 9-5 life; it chooses you.
2. You have the opportunity to get real-life perspectives about different career paths.
Information interviews will become your very best friend. There is no better way to figure out if you would enjoy a career or how to get to a particular point in a career than asking people that actually work in that area every day. Do you really need that law degree you were considering to be successful in this career path? Maybe not. Should you take a year or two off between undergraduate and graduate school? Maybe. Regardless of your questions, who better to ask than people with firsthand experience in a professional field that interests you?
3. You learn what types of work environments work best for you.
So maybe you’re not actually the 9-5 type? Luckily, you figured that out during a summer internship and can plan for that when you job hunt in the future. Maybe you find that you really like doing work by yourself and need an office that gives you more isolation when working on projects. Maybe you absolutely hate being isolated and need a more collaborative work environment. These are all really important factors to consider when seeking employment in the future, and internships give you a risk-free way to figure out what you like and don’t like.
4. You learn how to become a proactive worker.
Internships are generally not designed to supply interns with an endless supply of interesting work. Someone really does have to make sure the mail has been gone through, the supplies are stocked, and the phones are answered. If you are serious about getting a hands-on work experience within the office though, many of your coworkers will be happy to give you extra projects if you just ask. This is a great way to develop skills or knowledge in a particular area while also giving you a better idea of how projects move through your office. Although it will be extra work, asking for additional projects makes you much more invested in your internship and is much more rewarding in the end.
5. You gain valuable connections.
I cannot express how important office connections are. You have probably heard about the importance of networking every day since your first day of college. Internships are a fantastic way to do this and get a head start making connections in a field you one day hope to work. Internships give you a special networking advantage though because they are set up specifically to get you in touch with professionals through information interviews or project assignments. You are constantly surrounded by opportunities to foster meaningful work relationships that could be useful to you in the future. Even if you decide to take a different career path, the connections you make at internships could be future graduate school or job recommendations, colleagues in a different work environment, or even just good friends.