When you are looking for a job, time is money. You can't afford to invest much time into something unless it is going to bring you results. Internships have the potential to significantly help you secure a job. However, there is always a risk that you can put in all that time, and still end up with nothing. So how can you tell if an internship is going to be worth the investment? Here are some guidelines to help you make that assessment:
1. Have a goal, and a clear idea of how this internship will help you reach that goal. If you know exactly what you are trying to achieve with your internship, you will be more likely to make use of the opportunities that come your way.
2. Evaluate the learning opportunities. This includes training sessions, and also the experience that you will get at the internship. You can put all of this experience on your resume, but you need to evaluate how useful that will be for you. Will this experience simply be a repeat of other work experience that you already have, or will it provide you with useful skills that will make you more marketable?
3. Evaluate the networking opportunities. Who will you be able to connect with in this role? Will you be stuck in a cubicle, where you can only talk to two or three people? Will you have the opportunity to attend conferences, meetings or other events? If an internship will put you in places where you can significantly grow your network, that alone can make it worth the investment. Many people get jobs by meeting the right people at these types of events.
4. Try to speak with previous interns. If you are finding an internship through an organization or a school, they may be able to provide you with contact information for previous interns. Otherwise, don't be afraid to ask the employer. Most employers will understand that you want to have a clear idea of what to expect from the internship.
5. Be up front with the employer. Be clear about what you are looking for in an internship. This will allow both you and the employer to accurately assess if it will be a good fit. If this particular internship is not going to meet your needs, it is better to find out immediately so that you don't waste your (and the employer's) time.
Some people dismiss internships altogether, while others will accept the first one they get. A better approach is to think of the internship as a key: If you don't know where it fits, it is worthless. However, if you know which door it opens, it can get you inside.
(Written By: Karen Bivand)