College students who truly stand out to employers understand that there is no single time period when they should be interning. They don’t limit their options to summers, but instead decide to take on the extra challenge of juggling a full course load with an internship or research assistantship mid-semester.
And there’s a good reason for this attitude. Lots of benefits come to students who invest extra time and effort into gaining work experience while taking classes. They work outside the summer, which is a slower time even for the most productive of companies. They usually work on longer-term projects that often spill over from their summer internships or into extended winter and summer.
Colleges often call this a co-op program, but it doesn’t have to be that formalized. If you can find a professor or a company that needs your help during the semester, you should consider taking the time to expand your work experience.
Here’s how this will benefit you:
An important part of developing a strong resume for recent graduates is the ability to show continuity and growth. Your work experience should show regular growth and development throughout your education, from your first summer internship after freshman year, through research positions and club leadership roles during the semester, and so forth.
A great way to build this continuity is to take on internships when the rest of your classmates are solely focusing on their studies. You can either focus your internship experience on learning multiple skills, or you can focus it on refining the ones you truly enjoy doing. Either way, you’ll be in constant learning mode. And this skills development drive is a respected trait by hiring managers.
It helps to create the story of a young, ambitious professional who is always looking to learn something new and expand their work experience. Dynamic professionals who are capable in multiple skills while knowing how to carve out a niche are highly sought by companies.
And as you intern regularly and continuously for various organizations, you become more comfortable with work environments, projects, and deadlines. And if there’s one thing a company loves most, it’s a new hire that they don’t have to handhold. They can easily fit into a team and hit the ground running with immediate impact.
Many internships, and in particular college-organized co-op programs, pay their interns a decent wage for the months of work they put in. This is especially true during the semester, where the pool of prospective interns dwindles down to just the most ambitious of the bunch.
Just take a look around your own peers to find out how many of them are interning somewhere during the semester. Chances are that you’ll be one of the few going for that goal. And the nice thing is that paid internships and co-ops are less competitive at this time, enabling you to find a paid role (or make the case that you should be paid at an unpaid one) during the semester.
This salary will do two things for your career. First, it will give you some extra spending money, allowing you to better enjoy your college years and get the most you can out of the freedom you’re allowed. Second, it will give you the chance to learn how much your work is worth. Students that take on paid internships tend to ask for higher salaries at their first jobs than those who solely take unpaid ones.
It’s important to remember that taking on multiple internships in college opens up a lot more options for you in the future. First, it enables you to build strong relationships with various employers. This will allow you to return to those companies at graduation with a strong argument for why you should join their team full time. They already know your value - now they just need the last push to commit to hiring you.
Second, it allows you to build up a professional network and a strong roster of professional references. These are people that will understand your potential and will be able to vouch on your behalf to the various employers that need their input.
They’ll also be able to connect you to various friends and professional acquaintances that might need someone with your skills. Finally, they can be instrumental in driving your career forward with advice and guidance on how to climb up the professional ladder.
Finally, the more varied your internship experience is, the better understanding you will have of what you want to do with your career. As you work with various organizations, you’ll figure out what you want out of a team, from their culture, to their size, to the attitude and behavior of corporate leadership, and beyond.
This understanding will help you make intelligent decisions about your career. You’ll know which companies and industries to target, what roles best fit your goals, and how to talk to the companies you’d love to work for.
So go ahead and invest the extra time and effort into a few more internships. Make the most of your free hours between classes to work remotely or in-person for a company that needs your skills. And learn as much as you can with each internship so that when the time to apply for your first real job rolls around, you’ll be ready to tackle any task.