The Value of an Internship

woman starting internship

You’re probably aware of how competitive the job market can be. The need to stand out from the crowd, and make a lasting impression, has never been more important than when you’re making the transition into a new profession. One way that many students across the nation are attracting the attention of potential employers is by participating in internships. By doing so, students are not only gaining valuable experience, but they’re also networking and making connections within the companies and industries they want to break into.

 

The right internship can be extremely valuable to your career, and it can play a major role in whether or not you get hired by a particular company. It’s not a guarantee by any means, but here’s a closer look at internships and how they can benefit your professional career.

 

Paid Internships vs. Unpaid Internships

 

When you typically think of what an intern does, you tend to picture someone filling coffee orders. This type of unpaid work is quite common in the life of an intern. But there are instances when you should be paid for your contributions. That’s why it’s important to understand when an internship can be unpaid and when it can be paid.

 

A recent U.S. Department of Labor article on internships states that the Fair Labor Standards Act, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, provides criteria for what is and is not legal regarding payment for internships. Six criteria must be met in order for an internship to be unpaid:

  1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
  2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship and;
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

 

Interns and employers should familiarize themselves with these criteria when determining whether or not an internship should be paid or not (Fortman, 2014).

 

Fitting an Internship Into Your Schedule

 

It might be hard to justify an internship when you’re just starting out. Doing “work” for little or no money doesn’t seem very appealing. Plus an internship takes time out of your day that could be spent doing other things. But, if you look past these objections, you’ll see the true benefit of interning.

 

Fitting an internship into your already busy schedule can seem challenging, but sacrifices need to be made and time management implemented. For starters, know what you are getting yourself into. Do your research and ask the employer what is expected from you in terms of a time commitment.

 

Secondly, map out your week and see where things can be moved around. Instead of working out right after work, try getting your exercise in before breakfast. Also, it never hurts to ask for help. If you have a spouse or significant other, reach out and ask if they can help out during this time of transition. After all, your new career will be benefiting them as well.

 

The Catalyst For Your Career

 

It’s no surprise that internships can open doors, but you’d be surprised at how the right internship can launch you into a new and exciting career. Internships are known for being the catalyst for many successful professions, due to the fact that you’re able to get your foot in the door early and prove your worth to an employer.

 

There have been instances where interns, although not heavily qualified or experienced, have proven themselves through sacrifice and dedication during their internship. This type of fortitude has helped many individuals land jobs that wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for an internship.

 

An internship can be quite valuable to someone who’s in the market for a new career. The potential connections that come from an internship can lead to professional growth and new and exciting opportunities.

 

Be sure to visit Ashford University’s Career Services department for more information on how to search for jobs, plan your career, and reach your professional potential.

 

Written by Ben Cummings, Digital Marketing Specialist for Bridgepoint Education.

 

References

 

Fortman, L. (2014). When Experience Pays: Paid vs. Unpaid Internships Retrieved from https://blog.dol.gov/2014/04/11/when-experience-pays-paid-vs-unpaid-internships/

 

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