The media tends to portray interns as people who grab coffee, run errands, and provide assistance to office executives. Of course, the media also tends to only show the internships that are with large companies or corporations and are located in big cities like Los Angeles. I cannot speak for interns in a big city with a large company (since I have never had an internship within those limits), but I can share with you my various experiences as an intern, as well as the importance of internships.
I should mention that people seek internships for countless reasons, with the main purpose being that internships can help you gain first-hand experience in your chosen field through shadowing industry professionals. Internships, which are hands-on experiences, allow you to expand your knowledge about a particular industry or career path, and they also foster connections that you can develop with business leaders.
I started my first internship as a 19-year-old first year college student at a film festival. My responsibilities included marketing and research with a bit of event planning. The only physical requirement was that I had to volunteer at festival weekend in New York City (does that count as interning in a big city? – probably not). Ever since elementary school, I have seen myself in the entertainment industry. It was not a paid opportunity, but through this first internship, I was able to network with aspiring filmmakers and professional video editors. I primarily took responsibility for the festival’s social media marketing until the end of my sophomore year.
Now, let’s fast forward to my last internship before entering the “real world.”
My last internship before graduating college was located in my suburban hometown outside of Philadelphia at a small business. Although the office held no more than 20 staff members, this was where I gained the most experience. By this time, I knew I did not want to work in journalism or the entertainment industry, and this small business would allow me to gain experience in the business and marketing worlds. It was a paid opportunity, and I worked full-time (40 hours per week) as a marketing associate. I truly could not have asked for a more memorable internship to mark the end of my college career. I connected with everyone at the company and my time with this business helped me realize the importance of internships.
As it turns out, the small business expressed interest in hiring me after graduation. At my exit interview, my supervisor told me that there would always be a place for me at the company, and with that, I left a lasting impression on the office with high performance reviews.
Of course, in between my experience in the entertainment industry and my position at the small business, I interned at several other organizations - all with a different purpose - for a total of six or so completed internships throughout college.
For each internship I held, I pursued a new goal and furthered my professional skills. Reflecting back now, I see that each internship has prepared me (to some extent) for my first job out of college. Internships help you grow professionally. As a business leader, for example, my time interning at a local art museum allowed me to develop my email and communication skills while learning about nonprofit administration. Additionally, as a program intern for Ithaca College’s Office of Civic Engagement, I utilized my digital marketing skills to improve community outreach and engagement programs.
I like to think of internships as the start your career. They have helped me determine the right career path. Without any of my internships, I might still be unsure of what I want to do and where I want to work. Thanks to all of my experiences in different industries, I have a strong, adaptable, and versatile skill set.
Internships, I think, are important for any student at some point during college. They provide professional experience and leave you with connections. As an intern, you shadow people who will become your mentors. What’s even better is that it is okay to make mistakes as an intern. Internships give you a safe space to experiment with trial and error. Internships give you the opportunity to ask insightful questions; as the saying goes, “there are no stupid questions.” Questions help you learn and understand the different aspects of a company, as well as that particular line of work. Lastly, if the business is completely different than what you envisioned, that is okay.
My name is Sara Kim, a recent graduate of the Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College. I majored in journalism with a double minor in Health Policy & Management and Asian American Studies. In my free time, I enjoy working out, reading books, watching movies, and cooking. Fun fact: I am a foodie and love to try out new places and recipes.