When you picture an internship, the first thing that probably comes to mind is a young, inexperienced undergraduate student filling an entry-level position.
But as someone involved with internship or co-op opportunities for graduate students, I can tell you there’s much, much more opportunity for a graduate student to consider incorporating an internship into your education. Graduate-level internship positions include more advanced, critical and challenging job responsibilities, where you are more integrated into the staff structure of the organization.
In addition to all the reasons to consider an internship, here are five additional takeaways graduate students can get from an internship:
1. Exploring Specific Interests
While internships at the undergraduate level tend to be more general, a graduate-level internship gives you the opportunity to drill down into something you’re specifically interested in. I worked with a student recently who is American, but grew up overseas before returning to the U.S., Her own experience helped her realized she wanted to work in higher education with other “third culture” students. She’s looking to explore this niche interest with an internship, something that doesn’t happen at the undergraduate level.
2. Changing Careers
Going back to school is a common way for people to transition from one field to another. What better way to position yourself for success in your new field than gaining relevant experience? If you’ve been working in research but want to move into project management, getting real experience in the workplace that you can add to your resume is a crucial component of the career-change process.
3. Learning the Culture
Culture plays a large role in the workplace, whether you’re seeking to work internationally, or learn about a particular industry. Spending time at a company as an intern means you get to experience firsthand what it’s like, and whether you’re a good fit for the type of work that interests you.
4. Geting a Job
Graduate students are well positioned for an internship to lead directly into a job. Not only will you have your foot in the door at a particular company or organization, but you’re already involved in projects that may help showcase your value to your internship employer — and other potential employers. Working within a particular company or industry can also help open your eyes to all the different roles that exist, giving you a particular position to target as an employment goal.
5. Building Your Network
The age-old networking wisdom is to build your professional network before you need it. Getting exposure outside of the academic world means you can start making workplace connections that you can tap later in your job search process. Remember, it’s often about who you know — and who your connections know — that help you get to where you want to go.