Expert Internship Advice from Rasmussen College

An internship provides crucial experience for entry-level workers, and can greatly impact your future career success. In fact, most employers now expect college graduates to have one or more internships completed by the time they enter the workforce. I spoke with Christina Forsythe, Career Service Advisor at Rasmussen College about the importance of internships for today’s students.

How important is internship experience for today’s college student?

An internship is critical for today’s college student.  Do not think of it as an option, think of it as a mandatory assignment.  Many programs have required internships, if your program does not make sure you still make it a priority.  It is common to hear students say, “I don’t have any experience in my future field, will employers even want to hire me?”  Completing an internship will help you gain industry-specific experience. Take the time during your college education to invest in your future career.   I know it is a juggling act with school, life, family, etc. but intern as a student versus as a graduate.

Are there some industries where internships are more crucial?

Honestly, I believe an internship is crucial in every program.  This allows you to learn valued skills that will set you apart from other recent graduates.  An internship is a fantastic way to gain experience while networking with professionals in your field.  Another bonus, internships may lead to future employment opportunities!

What year should students start considering internships (freshman, sophomore, etc.)?

It is never too early to start looking for an internship.  If you are in your freshman or sophomore year, you will have the opportunity to be confident that your degree is a good fit, while building an effective pipeline of networking contacts.  If you are reading this as a junior or senior in college, this could potentially lead to future employment! Don’t wait, start your search now.

Would you recommend internships for career changers?

Certainly!  You likely possess transferable skills from your previous career, but this will provide you with additional experience for your future career along with networking contacts.  After you complete your internship, you can highlight your transferable skills teamed with recent field-specific experience.

Unpaid internships are common in some industries. Would you ever recommend an unpaid internship?

Absolutely.  Think of your internship as an investment into your future. I would personally say that unpaid internships are more common than paid internships.  Expect it to be unpaid and be pleasantly surprised if it is paid. The value you gain from a paid or unpaid internship is priceless.

What are some tips to help students find an internship?

Start early and be persistent.  Do not sit on the sidelines, be proactive.  Call up organizations of interest and let them know you are interested in internship opportunities.  Connect with your family members and friends.  Make sure to utilize the resources at your college; such as your instructors, advisors, or Career Services Department.  Additionally, use your social network.  Let your LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter followers know that you are looking for internship opportunities.  Are you having difficulty finding an internship?  Check out  volunteer opportunities!    That is another fantastic way to gain experience and network!

How can students make the most of their internship experiences?

Treat it like a job.  It is mandatory that you are professional, punctual, and ready to learn.  Ask questions, be innovative, and work hard.  If your internship is coming to an end, make sure to try to ask for a letter of recommendation or ask if they could serve as a future reference.  Remember to continue to stay in contact with your connections since you never know where your future might lead you.