Internships – Are They the New College Degree?

As I continue to make monthly payments on my school loans for my MBA, I’m hearing more and more talk about the value of going to college.

Most of the language revolves around one’s return on her investment. Is the expense/ investment of a college education worth it in the end when there are few jobs to be had upon graduation? And, even if you are among the lucky few who secure a job after graduation, how long will it take to pay back the time and money spent on college?

However, when considering a college education, it’s important to note that it’s not just about the books and classes. While in-class education was an important component to my college education, what were even more important (or at least helped me secure my first job) were my internships. Internships – in the plural sense of the word.

One internship paid hourly while the other did not provide any payment or stipend. Both involved me writing and editing and allowed me to garner clips for my writing portfolio – a necessity for any writing job. My second internship proved to be crucial because my intern supervisor, Ann, a former intern herself, soon became my mentor. She helped me understand how to put together my portfolio, gave me writing assignments that put me in front of professionals like cardiac surgeons to interview or photographers who would be taking cover shots for our magazine.

Those coveted article clips became my REAL diploma. That portfolio landed me my first job because the experience that internship gave me proved to my first employer that she wasn’t going to be spending her first six months training her new employee. I had already developed a professional work ethic, knew how to interact well with others, had a keen understanding of time management and, most importantly, I had results to show for it. Oh, and I forgot to mention, the person who recommended I apply for that first job and gave me a glowing referral was Ann.

Three years later, Ann hired my husband for another job where they worked together. He loved working with her as much as I had. Ann is an amazing woman and professional and I know how very lucky I was to have been paired with her.

Obviously not all internships end up where your supervisor becomes your mentor and then friend, but the fact is that those internships are a gold mine. The contacts you make and the experience you gain cannot be quantified in dollars and cents.

When I was in a position to hire employees to join my team, I definitely looked for those internships on resumes and put them on the top of the pile to consider – those candidates, to me, showed more initiative than their counterparts because they went the extra mile.

So while, yes, college is expensive and you may not recoup that investment within the next five or more years, the reality is that a college education is still very valuable. Look beyond the classroom, though, for your experience. Consider studying abroad or securing several internship opportunities to see what you enjoy doing and what you don’t.

Today, I still write daily, often for my business through my blog or for magazine clients. And I owe my love for writing and editing to my college experience and those internships.

For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at SmartCollegeVisit!

About the Author: Megy Karydes is a professional writer and founder of World Shoppe, a fair trade wholesale business that works with artisans in South Africa. She often writes about fair trade issues for local and national media outlets and her company has been covered in both print and broadcast media.  Most recently she wrote about Fairwashing. You are invited to follow Megy on Twitter @megy.

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  • Megy, that was beautifully put. I think you have captured the true purpose of internships and how they fit into the higher education equation. When you boil it down to what matters, degrees and lines on resumes, what’s really important is education and experience.

  • I agree completely. Social currency sadly doesn’t pay the rent. I do wish college students/families the best in finding the balance of monetary and social investment to make headway into the perfect career. Great read!

  • Kerie (@theWITTYintern)

    An incredibe learning experience comes when an employer truely sees their intern as a valuable contributor to the company. Like Ann, my superiors have put a lot of confidence in my abilites. They’ve given me with a lot of  responsibilities, and I’ve learned so much because of it. The classroom can only take you so far, good post!

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