Monday, June 07, 2010

What Will You Do This Summer? Internships v. Summer Jobs

Summer is finally here, and you're conflicted—should you intern, work, or just take a much-needed break? When our parents were our age, summers were for romantic flings, leisurely car rides, and, most important, summer jobs. These jobs were typically, but not always, in the service or manual labor sectors of the market.

While these sorts of summer experiences are still common for high school students, for those in college, the summer time becomes more fraught with career-driven importance. Like it or not, what you do during the summer could very well dictate what you will do upon launching your first career. The most common enterprise for college students during the summer is obviously the much-coveted internship. Increasingly, employers use internships as filters into future employment.

Still, internships are not without their pitfalls. In fact, we've already established a cultural image of the typical intern. You know exactly what I'm talking about—the young, slave-driven student who gets paid nothing to perform menial tasks like fetching coffee and figuring out the endlessly complex inner workings of the office copy machine. Of course, this stereotype is more often than not only a Hollywood creation. But as with any Hollywood creation, it has some basis in the truth.

The biggest problem with internships, more than anything, is that they are often unpaid. For students who are expected by their legal guardians to have their own source of disposable, personal income, like I was, the internship can sometimes become an impossibility. And so one of the biggest public complaints about our internship system is that it provides future career opportunities only for the already privileged.

However, this doesn't necessarily have to be the case, if you do your research carefully. Now, there are legions of paid internship opportunities out there, especially through your university. At my alma mater, these opportunities were everywhere, only they were not highly advertised. Thus, the responsibility fell squarely on the student to actively seek out such opportunities. Sometimes, you can even find an unpaid extra-collegiate internship and ask an academic department or campus organization to fund you.

What's more, the typical summer job need not be merely an anachronism. There are various important skills you can learn through a retail or other service-related job, even though it may seem pointless at first. You'll learn excellent communication skills and you'll probably pick up a better work ethic than you would through an internship.

So do you really have to choose between an internship and a traditional summer job? Absolutely not. One of the most forgiving advantages of internships is that they're usually part-time. A typical workload will be something like 15 hours a week. This gives you plenty of time to find traditional summer work, which, as I said, provides an opportunity to develop invaluable career skills that you may not experience as an intern. This way, you don't have to decide between a summer job and an internship. If you plan wisely, you can experience both.

This guest post is contributed by Katheryn Rivas, who writes on the topics of Online Universities Accredited. She welcomes your comments here and directly through her email.


Laura said...

Where is the best place to rest my hands during a job interview?
Thank you,

Zoe said...

A fresh source for searching for summer internships.

The site also has thousands of summer jobs.

My personal opinion is that an internship is the way to go in the summer. Unless you can find a job at a great company, an internship is better experience on your resume then "Lifeguard" at the local pool for 3 summers.