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Sydney Burdick holding a camera as she describes how internships landed her a job.

Imagine the feeling of walking across the stage to receive your diploma, knowing you’ve got not just a job, but the start of your career lined up as soon as you step off that stage. Pretty sweet, right, the secret? Internships.

The term internship gets thrown around a lot, but does it really help you land a job? Depending on your field internships can look different across the board. Universally, internships are about gaining experience in your field. Whether it’s hands-on learning or more of a job shadow, the experience you gain is invaluable, plus it looks great on a resume.

Applying for jobs after college is like throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks. While it may seem like every job wants 3-5 years of professional experience for an entry-level job, many employers seek people fresh out of college because they know they have up-to-date knowledge about the field. This is where your internship comes into play. Your internship provides you with what class work cannot, real-world professional experience. Even if it’s only one year or just a semester, it still gives you a boost among competitors applying for the same job.

Personally, I started my internship journey the summer between my sophomore and junior year of college. Instead of going back to work at the same summer job I’ve had since high school, I worked as an intern instead. Paid internships are becoming increasingly common these days, so don’t be fooled by the “internships are free labor” misconception. That summer internship gave me the opportunity to explore the career field that I was interested in more in-depth than what I could get from classes.

I then worked from my junior year and through the summer all the way until graduation as an intern for a student organization on campus. That opportunity was perfect for me because they were aware of our class schedules and conflicts, which made it easier to navigate schoolwork and the internship. That internship then led to my first job out of school. Not only was I now qualified for the jobs I was interested in, but I also had a list of references and connections I could use to network.

My advice for students regarding internships is to go for it! Do your research, find out what experience your field requires, and go from there. If you aren’t having luck finding an internship that fits what you’re looking for, don’t be afraid to reach out to an organization you’re interested in and ask about opportunities.

By Sydney Burdick