Monday, February 23, 2009

The Value of an Internship (even if it's not in your field!)

I think internships are awesome. Over the course of my college career, I had three very different internships, and I learned a lot from all of them. With the economy the way it is, and jobs becoming harder and harder to find, it seems that many college grads are turning to paid internships as a way to make money and hopefully gain knowledge. But, many have had to settle for internships that are not in their field or area of interest. When you can't find a job and your college loans are staring over your shoulder, the choice becomes an internship you may not like or a part time job. So, does taking such an internship make the internship less valuable?

When I started school, I knew I wanted to major in print journalism because I loved to write. But, I didn't know what kind of career I wanted to pursue. Initially, I assumed I would write for a paper or magazine, but my internships showed me just how many other options there are.

My first internship was with the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism. I worked in the Communications office, and spent most of my time implementing the skills I had learned in a Writing for the Web course to overhaul a section of the website. I learned about working for a non-profit and how I could use my skills in that kind of setting.

Next, I spent a summer interning for Sesame Workshop. That experience was the prime example of why it's worth it to intern in an area that may not be your favorite. I worked in the Digital Media department. My biggest project at Sesame was creating test scripts for two new websites, and assisting with the testing itself. My Information Systems Management minor was really put to work, and I enjoyed what I was doing, but I missed writing. So, I sought out other people in my department who worked with written content and I offered to help. Whenever I had downtime from my usual work, I would touch base with those people again, and as I result, I got to do some writing and editing. I learned the importance of taking the initiative and being flexible.

My last internship was with the NFL Players Association, with the communications department of the marketing arm of the union known as NFL PLAYERS. It would take me forever to name all the different things I got to do there, but I loved it all. Whether I was researching awards, collecting clips, copying DVDs or interviewing players, everything taught me something different. I love football, which helped me to be passionate about my work, even if it was something less desirable like putting a mailing together, I was still motivated to do a great job. The most rewarding thing was to be able to interview players and write about them for the website. I worked hard on my first article, and was entrusted with a whole series of articles as a result.

Notice that at no point did I intern at a "traditional media outlet," far from it. But, interning at these places opened my eyes to the options I had, which was a great help when I started applying for jobs. The diversity of my internships boosted my resume, and the varied experience I accumulated has since proven invaluable on a number of levels. So my advice is to intern, whether you're an undergrad or post-grad, even if you can't possibly see the worth in it. You may not realize it, but every experience you have at an internship, good or bad, seemingly insignificant or not, teaches you something about yourself. Don't scoff at an internship opportunity just because it's not a "real job," or because it's not something you'd ever want to do. You might be surprised. And make sure you're learning something while you're there, if not, take the initiative, because otherwise why are you there?

blog comments powered by Disqus