Internships aren’t just unpaid seasonal jobs for 20-year-olds anymore.
You spent four to six years writing papers, researching your thesis, completing assignments that seemed miscellaneous. You spent a dozen hours in the computer lab editing one video for your videography class using the almighty and complicated Adobe Premiere Pro (or maybe that was just my experience).
But once you graduate from your esteemed university, not all employers care if you have a bachelor’s or master’s degree. They won’t look at your transcript, and when they look at your resume, they don’t even glance at your GPA.
However, an employer’s scrutinizing eyes will go straight to those internships you did over long summers and agonizing semesters.
Experience, not the degree, lands the job
This might be an exaggeration because most good-paying jobs require some type of degree. But with no experience, you’d be pretty hard pressed to land a job.
Take David Badie Jr., an award-winning videography professor at Loyola University New Orleans (yes, the same professor who landed me in the computer lab many nights). He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of New Orleans and has been in the TV news business for over 30 years.
Typically, professors need a master’s degree or a doctorate — Professor Badie has neither. His bachelor’s degree led to an internship at WWL-TV New Orleans, which led to those extensive years of valuable experience in the field. Without a more elaborate degree, he’s qualified to teach at a private university.
While there are plenty of professors at my university who have doctorates in their respective fields, Professor Badie’s 30 years’ worth of stories, successes, mistakes, strategies, and failures have taught me more than anyone else. The knowledge has been more useful than receiving straight A’s and a piece of paper with my name on it.
It isn’t about the money
As a broke college student, I know we can’t survive without money. While some internships do pay, this isn’t the norm — most internships for students are unpaid. However, internships do provide invaluable experience needed to get a job when you finish college. The more internships you grab, the better chance employers are looking at you for your experience.
Internships will give you three things money can’t buy.
1. Networking opportunities
How many people can say they’ve worked directly with the president of a woman-owned business? I can. How many people can say they have a professional reference from a woman who created her own nationally distributed magazine? I can. And you can too.
Internships allow you to meet people whom you’d otherwise never meet. Networking connects you with potential future colleagues and employers, and secures references when you start applying for jobs after college.
And who knows? Maybe you’ll see that employer again in another context and they’ll remember your face, potentially changing the trajectory of your career.
“I’ll get to it in Q4.”
“Make sure to optimize the SEO on this post.”
“We’ve got an RFP from that company. We’ll divide the work.”
These phrases are common in the working world (in this case, the writing and editing world), and to be honest, it’s cool to hear buzzwords and know what they mean. You’ll learn lingo you’d otherwise never know, and you get to use this lingo all the time. Is that pompous? Maybe. Is it impressive? Kind of. Will it be useful in the workforce? Absolutely.
You won’t know the value of hard work unless you … work. By any means necessary. You can’t expect to be an author without first working in the industry, like at a small editing company or alongside an established author. Similarly, there are some lessons from journalism class that will mean nothing to you until you’re a newspaper intern on a deadline. Working will give you the technical skills needed to excel at a higher level.
The motive for work is also important. If your only ambition is to get a paid internship, you could potentially find yourself with an internship that doesn’t interest you in the slightest and only adds value to your bank account. But money can’t grow your character.
It’s through the genuine experiences of an internship that you learn about conflict resolution, workplace confidence, and the importance of standing up for yourself. Discovering how you react under pressure and criticism, learning how to collaborate with other people, and understanding professionalism are all essential characteristics you can’t learn in the classroom.
Internships help guide your future
The next time you look for an internship, be sure to consider the connections and opportunities for enlightenment it may provide. An internship is not just a required part of your major that leads to graduation — it’s a key to your life after graduation.
Post written by Breanna Henry, Summer 2022 intern