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Questions to Ask Yourself - Before Taking an Internship

Mar 14, 2011 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

Most college students see an internship as an invaluable college experience. But not all internships are created equally. If you’re not getting what you want from your internship, then you’re better off spending your time doing something else—such as taking classes, getting involved in extracurriculars, or working a paid job. Here are a few things to think about when deciding whether or not to take an internship.

Does this internship serve my interests?

What do you want for a career, and does this internship help you learn more about that industry? Does it give you a line on your resume that will look good to employers later? Is it possible for you to make contacts that could lead to a job after you graduate?

If you’re still not sure about which career you want, that’s fine—you can use your internship to help you narrow down the list. Choose an internship in one of several career areas you’re interested in, and use it to get hands-on experience. If you see what it would be like day-to-day working in that industry, you can better judge whether it’s right for you. If this is the case, you might want to consider getting internships in several different areas—so you can better decide.

Woman Holding Binder

Landing the perfect internship isn’t easy. But when it comes to the less-than-perfect internship, consider whether it’s really meeting your interests and goals as much as it could.


What do I want to get from an internship experience?

An internship serves several different purposes. It can be a resume-booster for your post-graduation job search. It can give you networking opportunities—and lead to your first job out of college, either with the company itself or through the contacts you made there. It could provide you with a fun, valuable once-in-a-lifetime experience. Or it could give you college credits. Some internships pay—but not all. If your internship is unpaid, be sure it’s giving you a valuable experience in other areas.

Does it fit with my schedule?

As a college student, you’ll have a lot on your plate. Can you make this internship work around your college classes and extracurriculars? If scheduling means you’ll have to cut back on some extracurriculars, consider this carefully. A leadership position in an extracurricular club may look better on your resume—or provide you with more valuable experience—than an internship with a company that doesn’t fit your needs and interests as well as it could.

Is it close and convenient?

Whether you’re doing the internship over the summer or during the school year, the location will matter. You’ll need an internship you can get to easily in between classes—without a difficult commute time. During the summer, you may need an internship close to where your family lives, so you can get free room and board (if you’re lucky enough to have family who can or will accommodate you). If your internship is unpaid, commuting costs will be even more of an issue—so you’ll definitely need an internship that won’t be too difficult to get to.

Is it paid?

Not all internships pay—and the trend these days is toward unpaid internships. Bear in mind that in many cases—although certainly not all—you’ll be doing more professional work and less coffee-pouring and photocopying in a paid internship, because the company wants to get the most for its money. Some students can’t afford to take unpaid internships, but if you can, be sure the internship is “paying” you in something valuable other than money—either with excellent networking opportunities, a prestigious company name to put on your resume, college credit, or an unforgettable experience.

Does it give you college credit?

Most colleges offer some credit for internships, but they often have guidelines about the type of work that qualifies. If what you’re after is college credit, talk to your college about internships with employers the college already has an established partnership with. Most colleges have such partnerships with companies in the area. It may be easier for you to get an internship with one of these partner companies, and you can be sure you’ll get the college credit you need.

Landing the perfect internship isn’t easy. But when it comes to the less-than-perfect internship, consider whether it’s really meeting your interests and goals as much as it could. Internships provide you with valuable connections and experiences—but so do extracurricular activities and more traditional summer jobs. When choosing an internship, make sure it fits your life and existing schedule—as well as your needs and interests.


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