Advice from an internships expert

Upon enrolling at a university, parents, professors, and even peers encourage you to complete at least one internship during your college tenure. Along with many other pieces of advice they have to offer (which friends to hang out with, events to go to, or student organizations to join), they usually claim that internships are key in securing employment following graduation. Well, I hate to be one more voice giving you college advice that you’d probably prefer to figure out on your own, but from experience, I can definitely say that doing one or more internships truly is beneficial—academically, professionally, even personally. Internships precipitate your growth and development.

The world of work

Understandably, in the midst of so many changes in your life, internships may not be your first priority. But honestly, they are the perfect opportunity to experience a professional work environment but have room to learn and make mistakes. This is not to say, of course, that you should not put forth your best effort in everything that you do. And in case you are wondering, you can indeed be fired from an internship! But think of your internships as a place where you can find out what you enjoy and what you don’t.

You’ve probably heard that the vast majority of college students end up changing their major at least once. Internships are a primary reason why. They give you what parents and professors like to call “real-world experience,” so you can actually do whatever it is you’re interested in.

Sample your career

Perhaps you will still enjoy it after your internships, and perhaps you won’t. But either way, it’s better to know early while you can do something about it, rather than be committed to a job you end up hating. Now, searching for internships can be just as difficult as searching for a job, especially considering the state of our economy. But don’t be afraid to determine specifically what you would like in an internship. I am a communication major (journalism and public relations) and a Spanish minor, so I made a list of criteria that fit my areas of interest.

And don’t be afraid to search for paid internships. I was fortunate enough to have one of my two internships paid. Of course, it’s the experience you gain that’s most important, but earning extra cash over the summer doing something you enjoy can’t hurt. This past summer, I was a public relations intern at Girl Scouts of Central Indiana as well as a marketing and recruiting intern at Express Employment Professionals. While I might not recommend doing two internships simultaneously, this arrangement worked perfectly for me. And I was fortunate enough to have both of these opportunities in my field of interest.

At Girl Scouts, I worked primarily with branding. I promoted them on social media and sent out more press releases than I can count. I was also able to plan events, which—along with an infinite supply of Girl Scout cookies—was my favorite part about the internship.  At Express, I did similar tasks. I composed countless press releases, wrote regular Facebook updates, and did my best to stay within 140 characters on Twitter. I also had the opportunity to attend professional events and network with people in the industry that I am interested in. I never would have imagined myself working at an employment agency, but the many opportunities to further my career in journalism and public relations that it afforded me have been priceless. As with all jobs, there were aspects of each of my internships that I enjoyed, and aspects that I didn’t. But even when you don’t enjoy the work, remember: this is a job. You are required to conduct yourself professionally, especially since many internships lead to jobs.

I am pleased to say that this was the case with me. In the middle of the summer, I graduated from intern at Express Employment Professionals to an official employee with the title of Marketing & Recruiting Assistant.  Girl Scouts of Central Indiana also offered me a permanent position, but let’s admit, part of attending college is having fun and being social, so I was disinclined to work two jobs while also going to school.

Make college count

I’m now in my junior year at UIndy, and being halfway finished with my undergraduate studies, I’ve realized that college can be the absolute best, most memorable time of your life. It’s when you can still shamelessly rely on your parents financially but also experience a bit of what it’s like to be independent. College is where you discover who you are outside of your immediate familial influences. It plays a significant role in who you become. So I strongly encourage you to take advantage of internships and of every opportunity that will help you realize how you can contribute to the world. Take chances and take advantage of learning experiences. What you decide to do with your education will improve, harm, or have no effect on society at all. The decision is yours.

— Ariana Gainer ’14