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Is an internship the way to go?

I'm a student that lives on their own, without financial support from parents. I was wondering if an internship is absolutely necessary to get my "foot in the door", even though financially, I cannot take on an unpaid internship?

#internships #networking #july20

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Ro’s Answer

Not all internships are unpaid. Try asking your career services department if there are any paid internship opportunities, as well as asking if there are any scholarships for students in your situation.
Another avenue for you to explore is to see if there are any on-campus positions that are related to your field of interest. (Ex: working at the school lab if you're a science major).
Finally, find out about online/virtual internships. Since these don't require your physical presence, you won't be limited by location. You could be located in Miami and do a virtual internship for a company in Seattle.

An internship is not absolutely necessary, but any experience can help you down the road. If you still have a couple of years before graduating, "getting your foot in the door" = getting some experience in the field you desire.

Thank you Ro for answering my question! You brought up some really interesting things, that I haven't considered before! Emilia S.

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Sharool’s Answer

Internships are a proven way to gain relevant knowledge, skills, and experience while establishing important connections in the field.
Internships are also a way to get your feet wet and find out if a specific field is something you could see yourself doing

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Lily’s Answer

Hi Emilia!

Internships can be rewarding - whether you are gaining experience, broadening your knowledge of a specific field/industry, or just getting your foot in the door at a company where you'd like to work, these roles have long been recognized as beneficial. However, not all internships are alike.

When searching for an internship consider the following:

What unique, technical, or sought-out skills can you leverage?

- Internships requiring a specific skill set, programming language, or school courses can sometimes be found offering compensation. If you find a role that you have the skills for, but the specific program is unpaid, consider looking elsewhere for the same job title (if there is one).

Who do you know that works somewhere you would like to intern at?

- Networking matters! Unfortunately, many places of business do not always advertise all job postings. In fact, some experts estimate that about 70-80% of jobs are not publicly advertised (NPR, 2011). Those percentages can cover internships as well. Reach out to people you know, or people who know your close circle if need be, and look for opportunities there.

What else can you do with your time if you are not interning?

-Although internships can be very beneficial, there are certainly many ways to build your skills, network, and graduate with an impressive resume without having to endure a summer/semester with no income. Look for online courses in skills that you may need for your career. Volunteer during hours that you are available and not working. Reach out to career services or a similar resource at your school for opportunities to grow (they may even have ideas of paid internships that you could apply for!).

Good luck!

Thank you Lily for your comprehensive and insightful answer to my question, I really appreciate your advice on this topic. This is a brand-new field for me (I used to work in the performing arts), so getting my foot in the door will be essential while I'm still in school! Emilia S.

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Sobia’s Answer

There are internships where you can get paid and it is one of the easiest way's to get your foot in the door. However, I would say that your ability to network and work experience/hard work can take you just as far.

If you have to work to support yourself and family, then explaining that to a recruiter you met online/in an interview is a key way for them to see your perspective. Any honest recruiter would hear out your situation and give you an opportunity if you seem like a fit within their organization.

However, letting your job be the only effort you're putting out is not the best move. During these crucial moments in your life try to take advantage of all the time you have. I know many people who supported their families by working through college, joined organizations/clubs becoming officers, and maintained good grades throughout college who are in admirable positions now (my personal story).

It's going to be a tough grind but you will definitely love it and make great memories along the way! Be open to all opportunities and enjoy the ride!

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Brenna’s Answer

There are some paid internships out there (and while they are often VERY low paying) they are worth the application time (and hopefully the hiring time). I was in the same financial situation since I graduated high school. Unfortunately, I found that shortcuts are only offered to people with connections or money. An internship will provide connections so that you can build the money later. If you are just starting out in your career with no parental support, it is more difficult to take the risk of working for low or no-pay but putting it off would just mean that you would either stay where you are in your current career or be putting off an internship and having to start later in life. Which would be even harder to do because people are less likely to hire you if you were older. The bottom line, stepping into meaningful careers takes a lot of privilege that some are not afforded, like financially supportive parents, or government. If you don't try to get those internships, those privileged won't realize how great they have it unless people like you are in those workplaces to let them know. It won't be easy or comfortable but change, even positive change rarely is.

An internship is still worthwhile because although you won't make much or anything, you can learn a lot and no one can take knowledge from you. The "system", or the workplace (or "capitalism" if you have Marxist tendencies) has been homogeneous for a long time. Every time someone breaks barriers of exclusivity, they are doing a little bit more to make the world a little bit better which makes it kind of like your civic duty. Best of luck!

Thank you so much Brenna! It's really helpful to hear this advice from someone who has been through it. I deeply appreciate you taking the time to answer my question. Emilia S.

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Sobhy’s Answer

As student, internships are very important for you even if it is not payed .. this for sure will open more doors for you when you jump in to the market place this we call it working EXPERIENCE .
Also this pandemic era we are in, it did create more opportunities for an online/virtual internship in multiple business/industries around the world.
for example as Dell Technologies we have multiple online internship programs for students.

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Nick’s Answer

I won't repeat all the other good advice but I will add:
1: A relevant internship is very effective on your resume. Hiring managers will be impressed.
2: Companies that employ interns are often seriously looking at them for future full time paid employment.
3: Don't assume internships are unpaid. In my experience, they are well paid.
4: Companies know that interns are workplace socialized and can get off to a quick start.
5: Interns with relevant experience will get multiple offers. Companies need fresh people to groom on the job with new ideas, lower pay (to start).

Sorry to say that skipping the beach lifeguard summer job for an internship can set your life on a new path. It did for me.

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Alisa’s Answer

An unpaid internship seems exploitative in my opinion. I'd say if you do take one, do flexible ones or week long ones that ensure that they give you a reference at the end. With covid it might be slightly easier if you are able to do a remote one and shadow calls. Shadowing might be a good opportunity too.

As for overall, I'd say internships will make your job search easier and a lot less grindy. Having this foundational organizational experience will really benefit you and allow for you to grow more at your graduate job. If you can find a paid internship it would be great.

However there are tons of alternatives to internships that pay better and are flexible. If you have good tech/ photoshop etc skills you could try freelancing or setting up your own online business. -fiver, etsy, ebay, youtube. This looks really impressive on the resume and recruiters love hearing about how you tried to engage and take responsibility.

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Sharool’s Answer

Internships are a proven way to gain relevant knowledge, skills, and experience while establishing important connections in the field.
Internships are also a way to get your feet wet and find out if a specific field is something you could see yourself doing

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Helen’s Answer

Internships are definitely super valuable as others have mentioned because it gives you hands on experience in the field you are interested in. I would recommend it even if its unpaid but definitely apply for paid internships as much as you can! You can also go through multiple internships until you find one that interests you the most (though you want to give it at least 3 months before deciding its not for you). Even doing an unpaid internship for 3 months will help better set you up for a paid internship in the future. Treat it as a trial and error process to figure out what you like and what you don't like to help you decide what interests you the most.

There are many others that also take less-traditional approach and tried to gain as much hands on experience as possible elsewhere: informal mentors, community events related to the field they are interested in to build network (building your network is SUPER important, I cannot stress it enough), books, online courses, etc). The options are endless but it can be done! Like others have said, it's all about figuring out your next steps. You may never know you like something until you try it.

Thank you Helen for taking the time to answer my question! I'm glad that internships aren't my only option for gaining experience, but as you've mentioned, internships are a good way to do that. Emilia S.