What is an internship ?

Chapter 1

Internships are part of a formal process of qualification. An internship is a sort of hybrid training process, between practical experience and formal qualification. Many colleges require internships as part of their study curriculum, and credits are awarded for internships.

Internships are very often necessary first steps on a career path. They represent the absolute fundamentals of your intended profession. This is about basal skills, the absolute bottom line of required levels of practical knowledge.

It's also a real job, regardless of the fact that interns are usually unpaid, and the externalized factors of the college element and entry level atmosphere. Interns have to work, and work hard. They also have to learn. An internship isn't a mindless process of showing up for work and then getting a piece of paper for your troubles and sailing on to a career.

You're there to learn.

If you don't learn, you're wasting your time.

And believe us when we say nobody will appreciate having their own time wasted, teaching someone who's not learning anything.

Formal process is the key concept to understanding internships. A lot of the biggest companies in the US have internship programs, and you can bet they're there for a reason. They have whole programs devoted to internships, and senior people managing those programs, and their budgets.

Interns are major contributors in their workplaces. Occasionally they're so good they do get jobs, although that's relatively rare. More common is that internships are a breeding ground for the next generation in their industry.

Internships are practical, as well as theoretical, experience. Interns benefit from the training provided by some of the top companies in the world. Their work is associated with using the experience of major league professionals, either directly or indirectly.

That experience alone is potentially invaluable. Some companies offer quite unique internships, with the prestige attached to their names as an added bonus. The corporations, like The New York Times, for example, Apple Computers, or Calvin Klein, or DC Comics, are giants in their industries.

Not to oversell or undersell the idea, but getting some of those companies on your CV at all is no minor achievement.

Think about it; these are some of the big names, where there are queues of people trying to get jobs with them. You also get to see how the big league companies operate, also not a common experience.

This is where Formal Process comes in.

Interns aren't there as decor. As an intern, you get the whole machinery of a job, training, and an advisor, who sometimes has to operate as your advocate.

So, you walk in with whatever level of knowledge you have at your year of study.

You walk out, at the end of internship, with your qualifications, something solid to put in your CV, and a very good idea of what your career is about.

Between those two periods, you can expect to be working like you've never worked before, and may never have to do again, but it will be worth it.

Some of the rumors about internships are true. You will be gopher, errand-person, Photocopier of the Year, find yourself becoming allergic to data entry, and a range of other things. You'll also just be doing exactly what all new starters do, anyway, in every workplace on Earth.

A word of caution, one of several:

You can just not do an internship, and spare yourself the work, commuting and general mayhem of a job amid a college degree.

But...

You'll find that everyone who did an internship has miraculously gone way ahead of you in the job-getting sprint after graduation.

Experience counts, particularly with good internship programs. Employers go looking for people with that sort of record. First place to look, one of those big name companies, above.

There's another thing you need to know about the rest of your working life:

All professions, careers and jobs take stamina.

If you duck the hard work and the big issues, they'll come looking for you.

Don't blow it.