If you’re a young professional just starting out in your field or even a seasoned worker making a career change, internships are a great way to gain necessary experience in a specific industry. The job internship experience has become the route to professional work, a first step to the white-collar career. Internships look great on resumes and are an opportunity to learn hands-on about your industry. Seen as a golden opportunity for college grads and young professionals, many do not have the know-how to decide whether the opportunity is a solid one.
Below, we share some key tips to help you decide if a job internship is right for you, and what to look out for when searching for internship opportunities in a new or unfamiliar field.
7 Tips for deciding if a job internship is right for you
- Consider the company size – hiring and retaining employees is a challenge for all types of enterprises. The smaller ones, i.e. start-ups have higher stakes. Small, fast-growing companies tend to have higher turnover of employees and the writing may be on the wall before you start —looking for truth in advertising.
- Certainly acquire the knowledge of the start-up or small to medium size company or any size for that matter. Think and ask: Who are in charge? How long has it been around? How many employees are there? Who are the clients/customers? What position will I assume when brought on-board permanently?
- Don’t be intimidated that the company has an upper-hand in the process. You hold the key of skills they are seeking in an intern and future employee.
- Make certain you have the clear and well-defined scope of the work responsibilities and type of contract you will be signing up to: Paid contractor, unpaid or paid consultant, paid employee, trainee, duration of internship, hierarchy of internal management – who’s the boss. Read the contract in its entirety and seek the advice of someone who is familiar with and can review the contract with you. Don’t assume that the contract work does not violate the work agreements.
- Ask about the projects that will be assigned to you or tasks and the milestone review process. If possible, test the waters before committing to the job. Not all may be what it appears. Ask for a trial period if you have doubts about the company.
- Promises, promises – get it in writing. Would there be future funding for the project you are involved, and for how long? Would you eventually be hired or paid?
- Employers tend to tell you about the expectations they have of you, the high bar they have set because you are a candidate for permanent employee status. But reminding yourself that you also have expectations for personal accomplishment. Success is of utmost importance so why not tell about it.
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Take the internship experience as an opportunity to learn and provide value to the employer, but make it a two-way street. Let it be a road that takes the emotion and uncertainty out of what you really want to do on the destination to personal success and building your dream. After all, someone will hire you to build theirs.
This article was originally published in 2014 and written by Ruben Abramovich. It has been edited and updated for relevancy.
Ruben has extensive project, program management and client/partner relationship management experience. He has led wireless development teams through the complete life-cycle of product development across design centers. His program management professional service experience includes having successfully managed from the implementation and launch of IT infrastructure projects to mobile consumer communications products for major industry leaders such as Lucent Technologies, Philips and Motorola. Ruben was born in Buenos Aires, raised in the U.S. and has native fluency of English and Spanish. Ruben holds a B.S. Degree in Electrical Engineering from the New Jersey Institute of Technology.