Summer will be here sooner than you’re ready for… another school year ended. With the summer season will come summer internships.
You may already have some professional experience from several internships. Or perhaps you’re exploring internships for the first time… maybe even as a recent graduate. In any case, it’s likely you’re pondering one of the most common internship-related questions:
By the time I look for my first real job, how many internships should I have on my resume?
The simple answer: there’s no “correct” number. However, successful job searches by recent graduates show the more internships you have behind you, the bigger head start you’ll have over your competition. Before you go planning to complete a double digit number of internships, however, consider these important factors:
Your Time Frame
If you’re starting your internships early in your college career, good for you! You have plenty of time. Even if you only fit one internship into your schedule per year, by the time you graduate you should be far ahead of most of those competing against you. More than one internship per year, and you’ll have plenty of experience with which to “Wow” recruiters in your first job interview.
If you’re closer to graduation and just getting started on internships, you still have time to catch up. But you need to act now. Consider an internship per semester, (or one every other quarter), instead of waiting for summer intern postings.
Regardless of when you start your search, virtual internships may be a good option. These are often more flexible than in-office internships, requiring smaller weekly time commitments. You typically perform duties on your own schedule – and save significant time as there’s no commute.
Most important, the flexibility of virtual internships may allow you to take on several at once, should you want to.
Internships are an important part of your career skill development. But remember that they’re just one component. Your school work, social engagements, and personal health activities (like getting enough exercise and sleep) should also factor into your internship decisions.
Be careful not to get in over your head. As school work ramps up, and mid-terms or finals loom, simultaneous internships or those with large time requirements may become overwhelming. Remember two points: 1) your employers count on you to fulfill commitments and work to the best of your ability, and; 2) the reputation you build in these positions carries well through the early part of your career – you’ll need recommendations as well as experience.
Your Development Plan
Before you commit yourself to internships, and to help you develop and maintain a steady course for your career, be sure to create an Intern Learning Plan.
Use the plan to map out potential “complimentary” internships – those that enable you to develop different skills that build on each other. For example, perhaps in your last internship you implemented a company’s social media plan. You’ve now mastered that skill. Your next internship should complement your existing experience – maybe one that centers on social media analysis or strategy.
No recruiter in the world will look at your resume and say, “Oh… yeah. Your experience is too perfect for this job. I want someone who I’ll have to train more.” Not gonna happen.
On the other hand, your resume doesn’t need to display every bit of minutiae each and every internship. Summarize your experience by soft skill and major accomplishment, and then simply list your different internships by title, company and time frame. Keep your internship experience impressive by keeping it simple on your resume and relevant to the job for which you’re applying. Most important: show your impact!
Internships provide invaluable experience with which to explore career directions, and to begin building your career once you’ve set a course. But there’s no magic number… no exact “too many” or “too few” internships.
Focus on quality over quantity, and mentors over bosses. Then choose the internships that will provide you the best experience, will catch a recruiter’s eye – and get you a job!
About the Author: Dave Ellis is an original member of the YouTern team and is instrumental to its success… in fact, he’s so awesome there wouldn’t be a YouTern without him (and he might have written this bio himself). Dave serves as YouTern’s Content Manager and Social Media Community Manager, and enjoys his role as the company’s “Man Behind the Curtain”. In his spare time, Dave volunteers, rescuing and rehabilitating sea lions and baby elephant seals. Connect with Dave on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter!