This is the fundamental question, one that unfortunately nobody pays any attention to! I think there are two important perspectives:
The Student’s Perspective
Because it is needed, either mandated as part of the syllabus, or because it will look good on your resume, or it may lead to a job without the hassle of campus interviews, or the chance to earn some money. All valid reasons, and if any of these are why you are looking for an internship, you should look for one that meets these goals.
However, there are many more benefits from an internship!
- You get exposure to working in an industrial setting. This is significantly different from what you do in academia
- You get to test whether your chosen field is a good fit for you
- If you are interested in a different domain, you get to try it out, at relatively low cost (its easier to switch out of an area after one internship, much harder if you’re in a job)
- You get a feel for different parts of a business, what they are, how they interact and how your contributions can have an impact. No amount of reading books can substitute for experience!
- You get to understand the differences within roles. As an example, there are different kinds of developers: you could be developing the platform or applications on top of the platform. To be more explicit, do you want to develop SalesForce or a SalesForce app?
- You get to understand different industries (the difference between IT and CS, for example!)
- You get to develop your network, possibly get a mentor/s and deepen your self-awareness
- You get to understand the culture of a workplace
- You get to try out a company to see if you would want to work there – or not!
- …. and so on
I highly recommend being clear of your personal motivation for doing an internship and then finding the place that will most likely meet your expectations. Of course, you may not always find something that fits perfectly, but if you are clear on what you are looking for, it is more likely that you will be able to create the opportunity for yourself once you start your internship.
The Company’s Perspective
Students tend to forget that there are two parties involved in the internship, and a successful internship is one where both get what they wanted out of it. So: what do you think the company is looking for? An internship is expensive not only in terms of money but also in terms of the time that your manager is going to invest in you. Also, given that you are still a student with limited experience, your output will likely not impact the bottom line at all. So…. why do companies do these?
When I used to work, there were a few driving factors:
- An internship is an extended interview. And it is many orders of magnitude more accurate than an in-depth 1- or 2-day interview can ever be, and covers all technical, personal, leadership and any other aspects that the company may be interested in
- Many things are not ‘must-have.’ but rather, ‘good to have’. Interns are great at executing these (assuming that they can be sized appropriately)
- Introducing fresh thinking into the team.
My motivations for taking interns are a bit different, but that is a topic for the next article!
What would you add to this list – as a student or as a hiring manager? Add your comments below!