Get stories and expert advice on all things related to college and parenting.
Parent-to-Parent Advice for the College TransitionCollegiateParent
By Ianni Le
Many students enter college unsure about what kind of career they want and the best path to get there. While classes and professors can definitely help you figure this out, I personally found my internships to be the main deciding factor. Students discover what they love through their classes, but there’s nothing like real world experience to clarify what you’re looking for in
Internships look great on a resume of course, but they’re also beneficial for academic planning. Whether a student finds an internship within an industry related to their major, or one that gets them outside their comfort zone exploring a new passion, the experience can help them focus on a potential career trajectory — making it easier to tailor their major and take the right classes to reach their goals.
No two internships are alike because no two companies are alike. As an undergrad, I interned with two start-ups which differed both in their management style and their industry (one was a media company and at the other I worked on in-house branding for a hospitality firm).
Both internships involved a large amount of time running around and shooting photos or video that later needed to be quickly edited and published. I had previously thought this kind of pace was what I wanted — a job that kept me on my toes and demanded a lot from me.
While it was certainly exciting — there was something new every hour — I learned that my creativity works best given a little breathing room. Under constant tight time constraints, I would hit slumps causing my work to suffer. As fun as the internships were, I recognized that a long term commitment to this kind of career wasn’t what I was looking for.
Learning my limits was invaluable, but I also took away real life skills and built new perspectives on my field of study and my personal creativity which helped me become a competitive candidate for full-time jobs after graduation.
Internships also allowed me to build up my network, making it easy for me to turn to different people for advice further down the line.
It was incredibly important for me to learn how to embody professionalism in my work. My internships helped me mature into someone who was prepared to enter the workforce, confident in my ability to stay professional in different situations and engage with colleagues and bosses.
The internships also taught me how to ask for help in a professional setting and that it was okay to lean on my team members when I needed to. I learned that there was no shame in admitting that you’re still learning and that you should always take the initiative to learn whatever you can in a job, especially when you’re surrounded by experienced professionals with so much to teach you.
Beyond all of that, internships are fantastic practice for future job interviews! After going through the interview process for different internships throughout college, I knew exactly how I wanted to prepare before interviewing for full-time positions after graduating and it really helped ease my nervousness.
Though the current job and internship landscape may seem bleak, encourage your student to keep looking for opportunities. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, an internship is very much a possibility and your student will still learn a lot even if it’s remote work.
Have them visit their campus career center for guidance (many universities have specific resources for internships, including companies that love to hire students from the school). Handshake is an excellent website that specializes in helping college students find internships.
Your student can also reach out to professors in their department to see if they know of any internships — or if the professor is looking for a research or teaching assistant. This is a great way to build a meaningful relationship with professors, and your student can learn so much from a professor’s mentorship.
Encourage your student to get on LinkedIn and interact with their connections. My LinkedIn has been flooded recently with heartfelt stories about professional success and failure — I find it uplifting to hear so many people talk about how they’re growing from their current challenges. It also seems that every time I log in to LinkedIn there are more resources popping up to help those struggling to find an internship or job.
Don’t forget to think about your own personal connections. Maybe you know someone looking for an intern right now or working in your student’s field of interest that you can connect them with. Your student will appreciate the introduction even if you’re just helping them build their network.
Find more career preparation tips to share with your student on CollegiateParent.com!