How to Tell a Good Internship Opportunity from the Bad

internship opportunityHow important is it to find a good internship opportunity?

If you’ve visited online job boards lately, you’ve noticed that most companies have high expectations.

Nowadays, it seems you must have real experience before landing an entry-level job after graduation. A popular way to gain valuable experience? Complete a quality internship. And to compete well in today’s marketplace, you need multiple internships.

But not all internship jobs are created equal. Stories of terrible experiences, where the intern ended up wasting a lot of precious time and energy while learning nothing that would help their career, are too common. On the other hand, there are internships that provide a structured learning environment and help launch your career faster.

How do you avoid the bad experiences? How do you find the opportunities that can lead to a great internship?

Next time you’re on a job board, look for these signs that an internship opportunity will be good for your career.

You Will Be Duly Compensated for Your Work

Perhaps this one seems obvious to you. And it should. But surprisingly, many people are still under the impression that as an intern they will not get paid. That’s why there are so many stereotypes about interns working as unpaid coffee-fetchers and copy-makers. But hiring someone to perform non-educational menial tasks for free is technically illegal in most places.

If the internship is advertised as unpaid it must provide a hands-on learning experience similar to a course.

But even then you should ask yourself if you can afford it. Interning for free can have a huge negative financial impact. Besides, a paid internship looks more professional on your resume. Studies have shown you have a much better chance of being offered a full-time position after working a paid internship.

You Have the Opportunity to Work Solo

Remember, the purpose of an internship is to teach you hands-on skills you didn’t learn in the classroom. A good internship opportunity must provide the professional experience recruiters want to see on your resume.

So read the job board listing with the attitude of “What’s in it for me?”

See if they offer you the opportunity to take on real responsibilities. See if your work will have any impact on the bottom line. Look for opportunities to grow and learn. If the company cannot list anything specific to these areas in their job posting? Then perhaps they’re looking to hire another coffee-fetcher.

Good companies treat you like an associate. They assign relatively long-term projects to work on over the course of your internship. That’s the promise you’re looking for. And if you find it, that internship is probably worth applying for.

You Will Learn Marketable Skills

Real learning happens when you are doing something practical.

And this is why an internship is a valuable rite of passage to a new career life. But only if they enable and encourage you to learn useful skills.

Specifically, look for software platforms and experience relevant to your industry or career choice. Perhaps they mention that you will be using programs like Photoshop, Salesforce or AutoCAD? Maybe you can gain intimate knowledge about Google social media analytics? Or content marketing and blogging platforms?

On the other hand, if the job board listing contains vague promises about gaining “industry experience” – with no actual specifics – then it’s ok to be a bit suspicious.

A good internship opportunity is a great way to gain industry experience. But only the right kind of experience counts. As you browse the job boards, look for signs the company is willing to invest in you. That they care about your professional growth. Your career will thank you!



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