If you’re like many college students, you’re still deciding how you’ll spend your summer. Maybe you’ll go home and work a summer job. You might even have the opportunity to study abroad. Or, you could be hoping to land that perfect summer internship.
If you fall into that last category, or are debating whether searching for a summer internship is worth your time, there is something you should know: there is no such thing as a “perfect” internship. And when it comes to finding that perfect summer intern gig, there are some common misconceptions:
Misconception No. 1: The Perfect Internship Always Pays Well
I fully support paid internships; however, sometimes they’re not always easy to come by. And, unless you’re working as a Google intern, you’re probably not going to make a lot of cash from your internship.
Look at the summer internships at Vogue or Fox Searchlight, for example. These were probably dream internships for college students, but they barely compensated interns for their time. Although there are mixed views on whether these internships provided a good experience, compensation shouldn’t always be the determining factor when looking for an internship.
It’s important not to restrict your internship experience only to paid (or well-paid) positions because this will greatly narrow down your options for finding a good opportunity. Believe it or not, there are great summer internships available that are underpaid or unpaid but also provide you with valuable experience and hands-on training.
Misconception No. 2: You’ll Intern for Your Dream Company
Most college students have an idea of a company that would be a dream to work for. Students also feel, if they land an internship with that company immediately, they’ll be able to get their foot in the door for a full-time position. However, this is another misconception that’s holding you back from gaining valuable experience.
Sure, while it seems like a good plan to land your “dream” internship, it also puts a lot of pressure on your internship search. In fact, it causes college students have tunnel vision as they search for internships. If you’re only concerned about the name of the company you’re working for, you’re going to miss out on gaining more experience from other organizations with excellent internship programs.
The reality is: You just may end up finding an awesome internship with an organization you may have never heard of — and fall in love.
As you search for summer internships, you need to look for positions based on the experience you’ll gain, not the name of the company. Sure, while it’d be cool to intern with MTV for a summer, you could probably find an internship just as rewarding (if not more) with a local music organization or festival. When you go into your internship search with an open mind, you’re more likely to find a really cool opportunity.
Misconception No. 3: The Internship Must Guarantee a Job Offer
Most college students go into their summer internships thinking they’ll have a job offer in the bag once they finish. However, this isn’t always the case. Although there are many employers who take their interns on full-time after the internship, you need to be aware that not every employer can make that promise.
Only 69 percent of large companies and 39 percent of small companies offer their interns full-time job offers at the conclusion of their internship program. While these numbers provide a decent outlook, you shouldn’t always plan on receiving a job at the end of the internship.
If you want to increase your chances of landing a job after your internship, there are some things you can do to impress the employer. For instance, keeping in close contact with those you met throughout your internship. This way, when a job opening becomes available when you graduate, you can apply and you’ll be one of the first candidates who come to mind for the position.
Misconception No. 4: You’ll Need Adventure to Find a Great Internship
As you search for the perfect internship, you may find yourself gravitating toward new cities, states, or even countries to find the best experience.
While it’s a great opportunity for you to live and work in a new city, it’s important to not rule out the opportunities close to home. Internships are an adventure in and of themselves. If you’re able to find an internship in a new place, that’s great! But don’t forget there are opportunities just outside your doorstep.
You would actually be surprised at the number of cool internships you can find in your college town or home town. Chances are, you may even find an internship located on your campus. Plus, you’ll have the advantage of being familiar with the area and not having to spend a lot of money trying to relocate.
Another option you shouldn’t rule out is the virtual internship. Virtual internships can be just as valuable as an internship in an office setting — you just have to be careful in the ones you apply for. Remember, there are opportunities everywhere to find internships; you just have to look in the right places.
Misconception No. 5: Internships Are Only for Later in College
Most college students believe they can only complete their internship the summer between their junior and senior years of college. Students are usually told this is the best time because it’s when they’re at their peak in their education. However, what they don’t know is how they’re holding themselves back from gaining experience throughout their entire college career.
There’s no perfect time frame for when you complete your summer internship. Although you do have a limited number of summers when you can do one, it’s important to realize you don’t have to wait until the end of your college career to get an internship under your belt.
Ideally, you should be able to find an internship after your freshman or sophomore years of school. Although you’re probably thinking you’d be unqualified for any internship, you need to change your perspective. If you’re a freshman or sophomore, consider searching for internships locally or even some virtual ones. This way, when your “dream” internship comes along, you’ll have a strong foundation for your application.
Just remember, when it comes to landing an internship, it’s about marketing the skills and experience to employers. Although your first internship may not be with your dream employer, in your dream city or lead to your dream job, it’s definitely a good start to your career.
What will you decide to do this summer?
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at HeatherHuhman.com!
About the Author: Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies. She is also the instructor of Find Me A Job: How To Score A Job Before Your Friends, author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.