Why I Loved My Internship

One of the best experiences I had going to the University is having an internship before I graduate. My internship was extended from one semester to almost one year. In case you’re not familiar with internships, it’s a job in your field of interest with an actual company. The goal is to give students some practical experience to see if this career is something they’re really interested in. You’d be surprised by the differences from classroom to office.

Why Most Internships Offered in College Just Don’t Cut It

Most internships, though, are low level jobs in your field that include little else than running some paperwork  and ‘errand boy’ duties. Training is not organized and you don’t get to absorb as much as you planned. Many internships I had seen on my university’s career management site were either unpaid or around $6- 7/hour. My living situation as an independent student put me in an either/or spot.  I would prefer an internship, but the fact of the matter was I need a job to pay my bills while I was in school.

I was working at a job that was barely meeting my needs, but the flexibility of hours (office was open 6am-1am) made it convenient for a student’s class schedule. I was pretty much at the point that I couldn’t take some jobs because of the pay.

Sometimes it pays money and sometimes it doesn’t. You have to decide if you take a job that pays the bills (and have some extra money) or do you get the unique experience that can help your career in the long run? I was looking at this question square in the face last year.

Then one day after doing my daily review of job postings, I noticed an internship in my field. What’s better it was a paid internship. Than I realized it was for several dollars more per hour than my current job! I went and applied immediately and I was fortunate to get the internship. Now that was a fantastic opportunity, but most of the time it doesn’t happen like this. What if I didn’t find this great opportunity; what would have I done?

Why I Waited for the Right Internship

I know a lot of people would say I’m being short sighted, but I’d take the higher paying job over the lower paying internship. Increasing my debt load is not something I would want to do. It’s tough to turn down a wonderful learning experience, but that’s a price of being in debt. In fact, waiting for a higher paying job, lead me to a great paying and learning internship.

I’m not saying just say ‘no’ to every good opportunity. You do have to take some chances in life, but do it with some plan in mind. Some people can take a lower paying job even when having debt because they choose to cut other expenses to compensate for the loss in pay. If you can do that, then great. If you can not, though, and are pretty much lean in terms of your budget, then stick with the higher paying job.

It’s not over if you decide to go for the higher paying job. Sometimes you can create a win-win situation simply by asking. Try to see if you can convert this job into an internship experience or build skills in your intended career choice.

If you take the internship, be sure to make the most of it. You can network with people in different departments and get an idea of how your prospective career runs.

Questions to Ask at the “Regular Job” Interview

  • Is there a project that I can do in addition to my job to qualify this as an internship?
  • Can I get written feedback and commendation for the project?
  • Are raises merit based or time based? (See if you can improve your income situation)

I wish everyone could find a great paying internship in their field of interest that offers a great chance of learning something challenging and possible their career calling. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. Often we have to create these situations or compromise. How do you feel about it? Should you go for the money or should you go for your career?

Your Thoughts

If you’re debt free (no credit card debt, auto loans, etc) then by all means take chances now when you have fewer constraints. Let me know if you faced a similar situation. How did you deal with it?

Photo Credit: stanrandom