Your college professors, advisors, friends, and parents told you getting an internship is the only way to get a job and the experience of a job before you enter the workforce after graduation.
Is that really the case for everyone? Probably not.
Call me a hypocrite, because I had two internships throughout my college career. But I chalk it up to majoring in Public Relations where I was required to have one if I wanted to graduate and get my fancy Bachelor’s degree.
Truth be told, I didn’t want a job with either company and I don’t remember doing that great on my final papers. Not because the companies were terrible, I just never envisioned a career in the nonprofit world.
But the experience was invaluable, right?
I don’t regret my internships, I learned a lot. And I remain in contact with a few of my direct reports. They were an incredibly helpful resource for recommendation letters and referrals. And though I didn’t want a career in the nonprofit world, I have a new respect for that industry and continue to support them.
You can argue that forgoing an internship to head straight for a job, or doing freelance work are better options. You get to experience real-life at work first-hand. Isn’t that what college and internships are supposed to prepare you for?
You get to conquer all the problems and triumphs; learning and growing by your own accord. What better way to gain insights than to be fully immersed in your work and only held accountable for your success by you, and you alone?
I will be the first to admit I was less than motivated in college unless it involved tailgating. I think if I spent a little more time figuring out what direction I wanted to go with my career, an internship would have been more beneficial.
Some careers have set, clear, and measurable paths. Those left-brain jobs – computer programmers and lawyers – have similar goals. Their daily tasks can be much more predictable. Whereas more creative jobs, like graphic design and writing, are more diverse and unpredictable (in a good way). This is where doing freelance work on a lot of different projects could provide for a better education in this industry.
From where I am in my career right now, I understand why some students wouldn’t want to intern. Aside from the fact that most internships are unpaid, there are now more open networking possibilities and companies offering entry-level, no experience positions for college students to get started in their careers.
You can argue the benefits on both sides of having an internship or not, but ultimately it depends on the industry you are trying to break into for it to be a valuable use of time. Keep in mind, though, if you don’t value your time enough to get paid for the work you do, no one else will.