This is College: Thoughts of a Peer Academic Advisor vol 4.9

Peer Academic Advisor: Tyler Figenbaum
Major: Criminology (BS)
Class: Senior

One of the biggest misconceptions I hear during college is that you should wait until your junior or senior year to start pursuing internships. WRONG. Internships are not something that should be purposely put off; they should be constantly pursued throughout your college years.

I understand why people may think that waiting until later on in your college career is a good idea. You will have more relevant coursework, you will have a better base of knowledge for what you might wanting to go into, and the first year or two of college you are still getting acclimated. These are not wrong, but I would like students to consider the other side of the story.

I will discuss four of the main reasons I advise students to consider internships as early as possible. These include:

1.      Internships help you grow

2.      Internships help you learn

3.      Internships help you figure out if this is actually what you want to be studying

4.      Internships in your early years may set you up for bigger and more prestigious internships in your junior and senior year.

Let me expand on these a bit more, first internships help you grow. Internships help you realize what it means work in a professional environment and how to deal professionally with your coworkers. If a student never obtains a job or internship during his or her college years, then they are at a serious disadvantage both in the job market itself and in the environment of the job if they are lucky enough to be hired. Internships help you develop your professional edge, and because of this starting early on during college is never a bad idea.

Second, internships help you learn. Sometimes it is easier to learn on the job or from actual experience rather than during a typical lecture class. All students are different, but internships will encourage learning at all times. Even if during your internship you are the person getting coffee and making copies, you are at least making connections and are learning what it took your coworkers to achieve the success they are having.

Third, and I believe to be the most important is that internships help you figure out if you are majoring in the right thing. It goes without saying that one internship does not define an entire occupation and it might be difficult to make a sound judgement if you are in fact the individual who gets coffee or makes copies. However, internships are a very good place to start when you are thinking about your future career. For example, if a communications major is hired as an intern at a firm in Washington, D.C. doing actual communication work and they figure out they actually hate doing work that involves communications, then maybe they are studying the wrong thing. I prefaced this paragraph with the fact that not all internships are the same and not all work environments are the same, but if an individual does not like the work, then maybe they should consider changing their course of study.

Lastly, internships in your early years will help you with achieving internships that are more competitive in the future. For example, I am a criminology major and one of the best internships that we can achieve during our years is to work for the Department of Justice (DOJ). However, this was unlikely during my freshman year, mainly because I didn’t have a pertinent resume. So instead of just waiting and waiting and waiting till I felt like my coursework alone could help me become a competitive candidate, I got a different internship in Washington, D.C. with the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC). Then, once I was able to succeed here and receive letters of recommendation, I applied to the DOJ internship and was successful. My hiring manager explicitly told me that the work I did at NCVC is why they wanted me to be there working for them. My internship at NCVC allowed me to get closer to my goals and I met a lot of good friends and coworkers along the way.

Of course, I am not suggesting overwhelming yourself if you are having difficulty with your coursework. Instead, I am just advising you to look into obtaining internships when you can. Over summer break is probably the time when most people are hired as interns, and this is a great time since school is out. So, I advise you to please consider internships as soon as possible!

If you are interested in learning anything more about the internships I discussed here, please feel free to reach out to me via email:  The Center for Academic Advising, Retention and Transitions(CAART) would also recommend you contact the University Career Services in SUB 1, Suite 3400 for information about all Mason internships.

~ Tyler