Everyone in college (and sometimes high school)  hears it: you should get an internship. But aside from being able to put them on your resumés, what is so special about internships? Find out not only why you should get an internship, but also how to navigate your interests to narrow down fields of work so that you can pick the perfect internship for you.

Why Should I Get an Internship?

While they may seem like regular jobs, with the addition only of a fancy name, internships offer important insight into the professional world and can lead to valuable connections and contacts. In many cases, having strong connections in the professional world will give you a big leg up after you finish your education, no matter how well you perform in school. You can consider it a foot in the door.

Furthermore, by working and living the life of a professional in the field of your interest, you can decide whether or not a particular line of work is actually the great fit for you that you had always imagined. You may also discover a new line of work within that field that you had not known of before.  You can also add your internship to your resumé to show not only that you have experience, but also that you are seeking exciting and challenging positions to help you grow as a student and as a professional.

Unfortunately, some internships do not pay much – or anything at all – and often require long and demanding hours. While this is difficult in the short-term, if you do a great job, you may be hired back to the company after your internship is over, or receive a bonus at the end. And, at the end of the day, experience now will put you in a great place later when you are applying to long-term jobs and determining your career path.

What Internship is Right for You?

Your first step should be to figure out the area or field of study in which you would like to get an internship because once you know this, you can refine your search to more specific positions. If your interests do not immediately come to mind, consider the classes you enjoy, the extracurricular activities you participate most in, where you meet your friends, and so on.

If you have an idea of a general area – say, food – you should ask yourself how that could be more specific. What do you like about food? Cooking? Baking? Studying the economics of food distribution? Watching cooking shows? Eating and writing about food? If you know where you want to go with a broad subject, narrowing down the options available is easier.

On the other hand, if you don’t know what you might want to do, look around at the types of activities you enjoy doing. What makes you want to get out of bed in the morning? How might this activity translate into the professional world? Perhaps you like writing letters to penpals. In the work world, this might show that you are interested in writing and sharing ideas and that you have strong communication skills. Or perhaps your interests are a bit more clear cut. Say you really like painting murals. This could be a sign that you want to get into community artwork, and you should check out careers in that area.

The point is: even if your area of interest may not immediately seem like “internship material,” the truth is any interest has the potential to be perfect for finding an internship if you consider it with a new perspective!

How Do I Get an Internship?

Once you have an idea of what your interests are, start looking for internship positions near you. A quick and easy way to start this search is to check online. There may be official intern programs in your area that can help set you up with a position or guides to places near you that usually hire interns.

Additionally, reach out to people you know. Family members and friends can often point you in a good direction and, because of your close connection, can suggest internships based on your personality and interests in a way that the Internet cannot gauge. Teachers and guidance counselors at your high school may also know of positions that suit you, especially because they see you in more of a work type of environment than most of your family and friends.

Finally, you should be sure to reach out to businesses and local governments (choose these groups according to your interests) to see if they would be receptive to take you on as an intern. Often, when you reach out to organizations and show interest, they are more likely to take you on because they see that you are making an effort to connect with them. It’s always worth asking.

Keep in mind that if a non-profit group or local government does not have an official intern program, you may still be able to come on as a volunteer, which will provide you with the opportunity to learn many of the same skills an internship would teach. Unfortunately, for-profit businesses cannot accept volunteers by law, but you can still check to see if there are other part-time positions for which you could apply that might teach you some skills in the industry.

Additionally, our CollegeVine guide, “The In’s and Out’s of Pre-College Internships” has further tips and tricks for securing your pre-college internship.

Conclusion

Getting an internship can seem daunting, especially if you feel like your interests do not fit the traditional “work” mold, but in reality, the possibilities are endless. By doing your own online research, asking the people around you (specifically, family, friends, and teachers), and approaching possible internship companies or groups, you can find yourself a great fit for a positive experience and set yourself up for success!

For information on what your internship will entail, check out our CollegeVine guide to The In’s and Out’s of Pre-College Internships. Also, if you are interested in getting an internship to improve your resume, read our guide to Five Steps to a Rad Resumé. And finally, pursue what you enjoy – it can help open doors now for the future.

Julia Mearsheimer

Julia Mearsheimer

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Julia Mearsheimer attends the University of Chicago. She is considering majoring in Philosophy, South Asian Languages and Civilizations, or Political Science, but remains undecided. In addition to writing, she enjoys listening to Nina Simone and baking bread.
Julia Mearsheimer