Internships are EVERYTHING. If you are able to get an internship during your time in college, or perhaps after college when you're looking for a turning point in your career, I say GO FOR IT!
I had two internships throughout college. The first internship was at my local children's museum where I still work, assisting their Communications Department. This was my first real dabbling in the world of marketing and is the moment I realized what I absolutely loved doing and wanted to do for the rest of my life.
I always have internal doubts and struggles around the idea that I'm not a good strategic marketer--I'm not good at the analytics, numbers and strategizing side. I'm good at making things look beautiful and I know the tech ins and outs of social media and the Internet. This is what I love about the career of marketing. It is a constant challenge for me and it's always forcing me to grow as a person and a businesswoman.
My second internship was at our local tourism bureau where we marketed our county to new visitors (Olympia, where I live, is the state capitol of Washington and we're always bustling with new and exciting political movements, rich culture, events, dining and entertainment). Greatly more so in this internship, I was working alongside someone who I viewed as more of a partner in crime than a guide. We were able to strategize together and implement the different backgrounds we came from to create something greater.
Shortly after, I accepted part-time, temporary positions with both of these organizations, performing digital marketing work as the new business owner that I had grown to become. Because of these experiences, I was able to see my worth in this field and focus on making it my career. They always say, "Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life!" It was time I realized that for myself. Among all the reasons I believe you should get an internship, these are certainly the top seven:
YOU FIND OUT WHAT YOU WANT TO DO
Perhaps you're at a crossroads not knowing which direction to go in. Are you going to go with career path #1 or #2? Maybe even #3? Interning in different areas will help you discover what you truly want to do with your career, as well as help you solidify what your calling is truly telling you. I got my start in college in a psychology undergraduate degree, focusing greatly on positive and social psychology, in addition to diversity and sociology studies. I was certain I would become a counselor some day and use my passion for helping others to make a difference in their lives as their psychologist.
However, through my internships, I quickly learned differently. I can be a positive force in someone's life by helping their businesses flourish.
YOU DISCOVER WHAT YOU WANT OUT OF LIFE
Not only can you discover what you'd like to do for your career, you can discover things about yourself that you might not have known or might not have found out otherwise. Do you want to be working a 9-5 job, or do you want job freedom? Sometimes a 9-5 really works well for people, and sometimes people flourish having more control over their own businesses and their agendas. You will be able to decipher what will bring you the most true joy throughout life.
YOU MEET PEOPLE WHO WILL INSPIRE YOU
One of my favorite parts of having an internship is finding people who inspire, motivate and encourage me to be a better business person (and person in general). There is no end to the amount of inspiration you will find in staff (and fellow interns!) during your internship. You always need a source of inspiration to keep you going, no matter what.
YOU IMMERSE YOURSELF IN REAL LIFE SITUATIONS
Getting out of the classroom and into a real life workplace setting is so important. Immersing yourself is real simulations of what it will be like when you're in this career is incredibly vital, and believe it or not: in most situations in good organizations, your actions as an intern are counted as equally important to those of staff! This is a fabulous lesson in responsibility.
YOU DEAL WITH OFFICE POLITICS
Similarly to the point above, being able to experience real life office situations is a great skill to have. I can't begin to explain the experiences you'll have, girl. You'll get to see how relationships manifest throughout the course of your time with a company/organization and you'll experience firsthand the ramifications of said relationship dynamics (both negative and positive). You'll learn to collaborate with others, push your social skills to the limits and navigate testy waters in the world of the workplace.
YOU LEARN... A LOT
The amount of skills I gained during my internships is something I can never repay. Well, maybe. I hope to repay, in some sorts, by training and educating an intern of my own sometime down the road! I always preach to people that I learned much more about my field of marketing and social media in my internships as opposed to sitting in a class and being lectured to for hours. I'm a very kinesthetic, visual learner, and I can't keep reading a textbook/hearing fancy terminology - I need to feel it, experience it, embrace hands-on learning. I can't ever compare the value of an internship to traditional college classes.
YOU MAKE CONNECTIONS FOR LIFE
Not only did I find a lovely outpour of support from various people I met throughout my internships, I also solidified great career contacts that I took with me. Creating solid relationships with career mentors is perhaps my favorite part about interning. Networking is something you'll have to get used to at some point - might as well embrace and learn it now!
On a fateful day in winter 2015, after nearly 12 months total in marketing and social media internships (along with a near decade's worth of hands-on experience running my own blogs and using social media as a teen), I reached out to a woman on Twitter who seemed to have the ideal business model that I would aspire to have someday. I asked her if she wouldn't mind doing a virtual "informational interview" about how she got to where she was and what inspired her to start her own business.
We spoke back and forth via email, and within 15 exchanges she hired me, taking me on as part of her marketing agency and luckily for me, hasn't let me go since. In addition to my college business class and a wonderful professor who encouraged me to think outside of the box, my internships were the sole driving factor in giving me the confidence to approach this lady and ultimately agree to work. I now know that I am worthy of this life I've created for myself, and so are you. So, all in all: this has been a PSA urging you to indulge in internships, throw caution to the wind and GO FOR IT! It will change your life.
Did you decide to get an internship, or have you already had one? Leave your experience/current journey in the comments!
BLOGGER: KATHRYN COFFMAN
Kathryn is the lead contributor + founder at FashionablyFrank.com. Obsessed with leading a life of balance, she started the blog in 2013. Since graduating from The Evergreen State College (Washington) in 2016, she is now a digital marketing specialist through her business, Fashionably Frank Marketing. She believes a cup of coffee is the answer to all of life's problems + that all women should strive to embrace a #girlboss mantra.