Why Every College Student Needs to Try This One Thing Before Graduation

Why Every College Student Needs to Try This One Thing Before Graduation

The two students took a seat at their desks. They gave me that look that said, tell us what to do. We were going to start writing articles and figuring out how to do social media marketing.

It was June 2017, and I had never hired an intern before–let alone two students in one summer who were eager to learn the ropes. I’m a columnist for a magazine and I’ve always been somewhat of a solo act, although I’ve had interns help me at times.

These internships were different because they were going to last about three months. It was a learning experience for me as much as it was for the new recruits, but through the course of several months it became clear that the real value of an internship is not only about landing a job. That’s a big part of it, of course–and fulfilling your collegiate requirements.

Yet if you decide to pursue an internship, there’s another important reason. No matter your year in college or your major, an internship can help you test the waters–you’ll find out which skills you have and any areas where you need to improve. Ironically, this does help you “get a job” in that you can find out your best talents and what motivates you to work the hardest.

Who you are, who you will become

Both summer interns took the role seriously right away. I’ll spare you all of the details, but one really excelled at writing and management, and one showed great skill in staying organized with social media planning and in speaking in front of a group. It was fun to watch. As the summer progressed, they became aware of which skills led to the most success. And they tried a few duties where they didn’t really like doing the work as much.

The reason this is so helpful is that it’s possible you have never worked in your field before, or at least in a way that impacted a business or institution in a real way. We’ve all heard of internships where the student just shuffled papers at a desk and looked busy. I’m talking about the kind of role where you can offer real value and find out if you can succeed or not.

In an internship, you can fail in a safe way. Your boss knows you are still learning and still in college. It’s really all about developing skills and getting experience.

Let’s say you are asked to lead a project with other people on a team. You’ve maybe done this before in athletics or in a retail store; but in an office or a hospital ward or maybe at a church, there is a different level of pressure (even if you’re still under a lot of supervision). Are you good at directing people on the team? Do you know how to motivate others? As you progress, you can find out–in a crystal clear way–if you excel as a leader.

Both of the summer interns showed great leadership potential, but I’ve seen other college students who realize they are better at being an individual contributor. In other cases, someone who might have always worked alone suddenly finds out he or she enjoys teamwork in an office setting. It’s an exciting time because as you discover your skills and abilities, you also find out what type of career you should pursue.

Sometimes that leads to an actual job after an internship. And sometimes it can redirect you and help you look into other career opportunities. As a nursing student, you can find out if you like the stress of an emergency room or the personal care at a clinic. As a ministry major, you can spend time overseas and see if that is where God is really calling you. I’ve heard of students who thought an internship would lead to getting hired at a church. They found out they didn’t really like that specific ministry role and ended up somewhere completely different.

What about you? Before pursuing an internship, it’s a good idea to ask some questions that go beyond an internship role leading to a job and see it as an opportunity to learn more about your own skills, preferences, and motivations. Just remember to enjoy the journey!