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10 Reasons Why An Internship is Important to All Students

A girl in Cortland Red Dragons tshirt stands among others in white lab coats in a science lab.

Our economy is changing daily, and with it, the talents, skills, and experience needed to be a part of that growth cycle are too. The job market is a competitive one, and often that is a tough learning curve for recent graduates. This is a big reason behind the growth of applied learning and internship opportunities becoming a key part of the college experience for all students.

According to dictionary.com, an internship is defined as “any official or formal program to provide practical experience for beginners in an occupation or profession.” The most important element of internships is that they integrate classroom knowledge and theory with practical application and skills developed in professional or community settings. They also bring a wealth of benefits to students, both while completing a degree and when seeking a career path post-graduation.

Save the Date - National Intern Day 2018 is on Thursday, July 26.

Learn more about National Intern Day at SUNY.

This year, to promote the intern experience, SUNY is hosting a video competition to celebrate the unique internships students participate in throughout the system, which will be released on July 26th, 2018 for National Intern Day. We want our summer interns to share their stories with the world.

In 2016-2017, more than 11,000 students participated in internships throughout SUNY. More and more opportunities are coming along every day, providing students with experiences that can lead to personal and professional growth. To further support the participation in and benefit of being an intern, we put together a list of reasons why all students should take part in their own internship.

Why should you intern?

  1. Application of education and career exploration. Internships are a great way to apply the knowledge from the classroom to real-world experience. Learning is one thing, but taking those skills into the workforce and applying them is a great way to explore different career paths and specializations that suit individual interests.
  2. Gain experience and increase marketability. Having an internship gives you experience in the career field you want to pursue. Not only does this give individuals an edge over other candidates when applying for jobs, it also prepares them for what to expect in their field and increases confidence in their work.
  3. Networking. Having an internship benefits you in the working environment, and it also builds your professional network. There is a 1 in 16 chance of securing a job by connecting with people, so networking is critical. Internships provide a great environment to meet professionals in the career field you want to pursue, as well as other interns who have similar interests.
  4. National Data. According to a 2016 National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) survey, more than 56 percent of graduating seniors reported taking part in at least one internship. Of those respondents, 56 percent were paid, while 44 percent were unpaid. Seventy-two percent of those unpaid internships were credit-bearing.
  5. Professionalism. Internships can provide students with the soft skills needed in the workplace and in leadership positions. In a LinkedIn Skills Report (2018), 57% of people rated soft skills as being more important than technical skills. Skills, such as communication, leadership, problem-solving, and teamwork can all be learned through an internship and utilized beyond that experience.
  6. Learn how a professional workplace operates. Depending on your major, you may read about how organizations thrive and function in textbooks, hear from guest speakers who talk about organizational structures, or dive into case studies about workplace culture, but nothing compares to living the actual experience. Internships help students learn all about workplace culture, employee relations, and leadership structure, which should help them onboard in their first professional job with more ease than if they haven’t had professional experience.
  7. Build your resume. Most organizations and jobs that you apply to following graduation want employees to have some sort of professional experience, even for entry-level jobs. In the event that you are a finalist for a position and haven’t had an internship experience but the other finalist has, you may lose out on a job opportunity, so make sure you at least have one internship on your resume before leaving college to give you a leg up on the competition.
  8. Gain professional feedback. Not only will you be helping out the organization you intern with, but they’ll help you out too. While professors and teachers will prepare you for the theoretical side of your field and hands-on projects, internships provide opportunities for receiving feedback from someone who works in your desired field on a daily basis.
  9. Learn from others. It might seem common sense – you’re interning to learn skills, after all – but don’t forget to purposefully observe others in their job role to learn the ins and outs of different positions. Consider asking your supervisor if you can shadow them for a day, along with other people in your department. Ask to sit in on departmentwide meetings as well. Act like a sponge and soak up all the information you can during your internship – it will benefit you in the long run.
  10. Figure out what you like and don’t like. While everyone probably wants to walk away from an internship feeling excited and passionate about the experience, there’s a silver-lining to be found if you didn’t enjoy the job: you’ll know what you don’t like. According to an article from monster.com, “figuring out what type of job you don’t want while you’re interning can help prevent you from accepting an ill-fitting job when you graduate.”

    Written by Julie Maio

    Julie is a Communications Assistant at SUNY System Administration.

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    There are 9 comments

  • William O'Neill says:

    I think that this article gives great insight and tips into the benefits that an internship can provide. The education and experience that I have gained during my internship experiences are unmatched. They have provided me with insider knowledge into the inner workings of the firms as well as the industry as a whole while allowing me to generate more and more contacts to my networking portfolio. These connections that you create when you are interning have endless effects for you later on when you graduate and beyond. A lot of the time the company that the intern works for will extend a job offer upon graduation or completion of studies but if not, then you have so many opportunities to fall back on. It is shown that over 75% of jobs are filled through word of mouth and connections so even without a job offer, your contacts are worth more than none. These people that you have worked with and proven yourself to will be able to put in a good word and essentially be your own personal salesman/recruiter when looking for a job. The person that will be taking the risk on hiring you will feel like it is less fo a risk because of the positive reviews they have heard from someone they trust.

  • Corbin Brailsford says:

    During this semester, I had the opportunity to intern at Colliers International which is a commercial real estate firm. In the past, I’ve had internships in the summer but never during the school year. In this article, the three points that resonated the most with my experience was the application of education and career exploration, learning how a workplace operates, and building my resume. In the beginning of the internship, class concepts were instantly incorporated. Commercial real estate was new to me so concepts from my economic classes were heavily influenced and applied. I learned how a workplace operates by being able to work in two offices (DC and Tysons Corner). It was interesting to see different office environments, personalities, and jobs all in the same company. I also got to experience how multiple teams can work together for the same goal; specifically, the research, marketing, and brokers of the company. Lastly, this internship was a great resume builder. Having an internship during the school year with a full class schedule at a well-known international company looks great. But most importantly, I was able to build a portfolio that emphasized how important my responsibilities were and how well I can do certain tasks. Overall, the internship was worth it and I highly recommend having an internship for credit.

  • Anna Baffone says:

    Internships connect the knowledge learned in the classroom with real life applications in order for the student to have the ultimate learning experience. There is a big difference between learning the information needed to be successful in the future and actually applying it. Internships are the common ground that help students get a head start on their future while building a resume. They give students an idea of what a job in their selected major would look like, while providing valuable “real world” experience. Through internships, students are able to observe how a professional workspace operates. In addition, internships often lead directly to job positions and even if a student is not offered a job, the networking opportunities are worth it in itself. The article listed many valuable points that portray the opportunities presented to a student that has an internship. In my personal experience, I have learned so many valuable professional and life lessons while growing as a person. I have learned the power of applying the knowledge I learn to “real life” while gaining valuable experience giving me confidence in my future career. The transition from college to the working world will be tough but being able to dip my toes in the water will certainly help and give me the confidence I need. My internship has shown me that if my future job is anything like my internship position, I will love my future job as well.

  • Jack Oman says:

    I believe that all of the points stated in this article are great reasons why all students should have internships when in college. Some of the reasons I found more applicable than the others participating in an internship myself. Those points were etworking, learning how a professional workplace operates, building your resume, and figuring out what you do and do not like. For me personally I have held an internship for the last four semesters at a staffing agency. I have enjoyed and appreciate working there very much, but it is not the industry I specifically want to get into after school. However, since I have been there for so long I have been able to work in each different department and been able to understand how a workplace operates and how important workplace communication is in order for a company to be successful. Along with learning how the workplace operates, it is also a great resume builder as I have been able to experience a little bit of each department (Finance, Operations, Sales), and able to put different tasks and accomplishments on my resume. Lastly what I have found the most important or the most useful from having an internship is Networking. I have been able to develop relationships with most people at my internship as it is a smaller company, and I have notified them about my plans after graduating. Many of these people have told me to send them my resume because they know of people in the industry I am interested in. Having an internship has been beneficial for so many reasons, an internship is something that every student should strive to get.

  • Caterina Greco says:

    Internships are a crucial part of the learning experience in college, as they translate what is learned in the classroom to the working world. Most college students have work experience in college, whether it be in retail or in the food service industry, and although these experiences are helpful they do not prepare students for the “real” world. Internships are designed to give students an idea of what is expected in the real world, and typically prepares them for the job search process after college.
    Many internships give students an idea of what they would like to do after college, and often times internships end up offering students jobs for post-graduation. If a job is not offered upon completing the internship, students still gain a wealth of knowledge that they can use in the future. Typically, from internships students are able to discover what they do and do not like in terms of jobs. Also, in internships students are able to network with other professionals which can prepare and possibly help them secure future jobs. Additionally, internships teach students how a professional workplace operates and how to exhibit professionalism. Most students typically grow both personally and professionally in internships which can be very beneficial to the student. It also gives them the opportunity to learn from other professionals and ask questions, as well as receive feedback.
    Overall, the article made some great points about the importance of completing internships and I am so thankful for the several internships I have had the opportunity to do. I have learned and grown so much as a person through these experiences, and had the opportunity to work with wonderful people who have taught me so much. Internships are great for building out resumes, but they also offer so much more. I look forward to the opportunities I will have in the future because of my work experience through my internships.

  • Meagan Kennedy says:

    The most important takeaway I have from this article is the fact that internships provide students with the opportunity to gain experience as well as teach them how a professional work-space operates. Internships allow students to gain experience in a specific field they are interested in working it, and truly helps them to figure out if this is a position they would enjoy thriving in. In my personal experience, I’ve had internships for positions that I was incredibly eager to do, only to realize once I started the work, I wasn’t a true passion of mine. Internships allow students to explore multiple fields, as they can create working relationships with others in the office and get to learn about other fields the company works in. Transitioning from college to work will be something that I see as a challenge, but I have a benefit over others as I am familiar with the professional workplace setting. We can read about it in textbooks, but you won’t be able to fully understand how the workplace operated without experiencing it for yourself. Understanding employee culture and employee relations earlier on is only going to help an entry-level employee succeeded faster and stronger. My previous internship experiences have shed light on how I am supposed to communicate with my managers, as well as how to create relationships with others in my office to help create a friendly and healthy work environment.

  • That’s right because how a person can get work experience if he doesn’t go through the internship process first

  • This is why I hate it when I see people hating on unpaid internships. I think internships of all kinds are insanely valuable, and just because you aren’t getting paid in dollars doesn’t mean you’re not benefiting from the internship.

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