Why Internships Pay Off (Even When They’re Unpaid)

In today’s job market, even an excellent education isn’t enough. You will face ferocious competition, and our global society means it will come from all over the world.

The weakened U.S. economy means fewer jobs in many industries. Hiring managers can be picky—and they are. Increasingly they’re seeking candidates with solid job experience and business savvy as well as excellent academic credentials.

You can pull ahead of the pack with an internship.

Paid, Unpaid—They’re All Worth It

Internships come in various types: paid, unpaid, for-credit, summer.

All of them are worth exploring, even unpaid, because they offer opportunities to:

1. Network

You will meet people in business who can help with jobs, references or introductions after graduation. The wider your circle of influential contacts, the better. Remember: it’s impossible to know too many people!

2. Learn

You will see firsthand how academic content is applied to real-world situations.

3. Try Out a Field

An internship is a low-risk, limited-commitment way of previewing a possible career—and avoiding a possible mistake.

4. Land a Real Job Later

Even if an internship is unpaid, some interns perform so well that they’re offered fulltime paying jobs after graduation.

5. Earn College Credit

Some internships are worth college credits. Students win two ways: they save on tuition while enjoying all an internship’s benefits.

Find Them on Campus . . .

At most schools, the college careers center or job search office is internship central. The staff there has the experience, skills and resources to point you towards appropriate internships and to put you in touch with alumni who may know of interesting opportunities.

Make sure to visit the center early and often during college.

. . . or Online

To review thousands of internship opportunities, you can explore such college internship job boards as Internships, Monster.com, Indeed and others.

Explore Jobs and Careers

Beyond internships, the campus career services center is also an excellent resource for summer jobs and career planning.

Most colleges sponsor job fairs, where employers recruit on campus, and other career-related events. You can also browse through print and online resources at the center. Or, if you want to explore on your own time, USAJOBS.gov is chock-full of information on both federal and private sector jobs.

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