If you are a college student who wants to be employed come graduation time, there should be one word constantly on your mind over the course of your four-plus college years: INTERNSHIP.
In today’s world, successfully completing internships is absolutely critical to landing a career in your desired field following graduation. I completed my first event-planning internship last summer, and am doing a second one this fall. All along the way, I have learned many lessons that will better prepare me for the working world.
Last summer, I worked for Weddings in Vieques, a destination wedding planning company in the Caribbean. I knew the moment I stepped on a tiny puddle-jumper airplane in San Juan that my experience in Vieques was going to be a very unique one. How could it not be, creating the most important day of people’s lives on a tiny island seven miles off the coast of another island. Although the company primarily focused on wedding planning, I learned a plethora of skills that can be applicable to any future job.
I can confidently say that I have gained experience writing vendor-client contracts, participating in client conference calls, conducting general client communications, prepping an event from beginning to end, creating flower bouquets, executing actual wedding events, and so much more. The list goes on and on. Granted, in a future job, I may not need to make bouquets, or prepare the ultimate bridal emergency bag, but it is just one more skill that I can say I CAN do. I also learned to blog.
The skills you will learn interning with companies will not only make you a better candidate for future jobs, but also make you a better person. Regardless of the field you want to go into, you will have to learn how to prioritize work. College students have it easy—sleeping in late, staying up all night, making your own decisions—the “real world” will feel like a slap in the face after living that lifestyle for a few years. Interning will prepare you for what it is like to wake up early, and not leave the office until your day’s work is done, even when that means you have a 12-hour day on your plate.
Unfortunately, jobs are no longer offered at an unlimited capacity; good jobs are hard find, and even harder to get. Your future employers will be looking at your experience and skills to see if you are an appropriate candidate for the position before they even grant you an interview. If you go through four years of college working at the sandwich shop in the student union, but never dipping your foot in your chosen career field, future employers may be concerned about whether you have the correct experience for a job in that realm. However, if you “wow” them with several applicable internships on your resume, you will not only show them a strong work ethic, but also responsibility by taking your own career path into your own hands. If you have to work full-time and can’t carry a full-time internship, get involved in campus organizations that focus on your major. Not only will you get some experience, but you’ll demonstrate your interest and willingness to learn in a manner that will be reflected on your CV.
Dip your toes in as many puddles as possible! If one internship turns out to be a wrong fit for you, take that as a learning experience. Don’t quit—you made a commitment and you have to finish it. It’s not as if you will not learn anything. You’ll figure out what you dislike about the job or company, and what you would like to do differently. This is almost as valuable as finding the perfect internship. Every internship will be a learning experience. You will undoubtedly walk out of each internship opportunity with a new skill, and a whole new outlook on that specific industry.
As I complete my last semester of college, there is one piece of advice that I would like to give to all you youngsters: Start interning with companies as soon as possible! It doesn’t matter if you do not know what you want to do. One of the best ways to find out what career path is right for you is to start interning early. Try as many career fields as you want until you find one that makes you happy. If there are days where you wake up and are not excited to go to work, then maybe it’s not the right fit for you. I can honestly say that every single day I woke up in Vieques, I was really eager to get the office. Each day was something new, and I was never bored. That is how I became confident that event planning is the perfect career choice for me.
Get out in the real world now, while you’re still in college and have the opportunity to change your mind. Explore all the career possibilities. The more experience you get under your belt—in whatever field you’re studying—the better. Your future employers will be impressed by your knowledge, and the skill sets you’ve gained, from your time spent with each company. The hands-on experience you take away from internships will start to make everything you’ve learned in college actually make sense!
It’s one thing to sit in a class and learn about communication theories, but it is something else to see how it actually applies in the real world. There’s no substitute for having the opportunity to work on real accounts, interact with real clients, and complete important projects in a professional environment. As you improve your education throughout college, you should grow your readiness for a career at the same time. Interning is the answer! And I’m ready for the real world now.
Claire McCarthy, former intern at Wedding in Vieques, soon-to-be a new graduate from University of Arizona