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The Value of Internships

Of all the elements in your college and scholarship applications that can help you stand out from the crowd, an internship may be the single thing that shines the brightest. Yet they are so much more than just resume and application padding. Take a look at some of the ways the right internship can help you realize your dreams in high school, college, and beyond. 

Gain Real-World Experience 

By the time you’re applying to college and considering scholarships, you’re probably sick of hearing adults patronize you with talk about entering the real-world. The Kantner Foundation is not here to beat a dead horse and tell you how different the quote-unquote “real world” is from high school, because we know you already live the real world. Whether you are a veteran young entrepreneur or just starting on your entrepreneurial path, the world is very real to you. 

When we talk about internships helping you gain real-world experience, we don’t mean you have no idea what life is like outside of school. Rather we’re talking about the kind of work experience that goes on your resume when you start looking for actual jobs, be they during college, over the summer, or after graduation. If, say, you are thinking about a career in environmental sciences, an internship at your local environmental management department will look much better on your resume and college application than a random retail job. 

Learn Work-Life Balance 

While you’re interning, you’ll have to juggle school, family, homework, and any other commitments you have, such as sports or volunteer work. This is a fantastic opportunity to practice work-life balance, including self-care. We have no doubt you are a bright and energetic go-getter, but we also care about you and your health! 

When you intern, you are making a commitment to a company, organization, or government agency. They take that commitment seriously, as should you. Now is the time to learn how to manage your priorities so that you don’t burn out or hurt yourself. (Psst: we’ve got some tips on how to do that.) 

Make Friends 

When you intern, you are putting yourself in a unique position to meet peers who share your interests and ambitions. Especially if you have trouble meeting like-minded friends at school, an internship will help you branch out beyond your immediate circle. As you all move on to college and careers, the friends you made during your internship may become colleagues or business partners. 

Figure Out What You *Don’t* Want to Do 

How demoralizing would it be to spend your life in pursuit of a single career goal, only to get there and discover you hate it?  

An internship is like a “try-on” period when the personal stakes are low, but the rewards are high. Maybe you love animals and always imagined yourself in a career where you get to be around animals all day—maybe a veterinarian. However, you spend the summer interning at a vet’s office and discover that while you love animals, being hands-on with them all day isn’t as rewarding as you’d thought it would be, or maybe you see how hard it is to deal with the business side of a vet’s office. Aren’t you glad you learned that now, rather than after years of veterinary school? 

Network in Your Field 

Imagine working alongside some of the giants of your field. You have the ear of people who are well-established and well-respected in the very place you hope to build a career. An internship can get you in front of pros who can help you achieve your dreams. You are surrounded by potential mentors, references, and future bosses. When it comes time to apply for positions within that organization, a familiar name and face will have a major advantage over piles of resumes from unknown quantities.  

Learn Your Own Strengths and Weaknesses 

Do you know whether or not you enjoy answering the phone all day? Have you yet realized how good you are at project management? 

As we’ve said, interning is like a “try-on” period for your future career goals. Just as a single pair of jeans won’t fit every person in the world, the same can be said for job skills. You might feel like a natural team leader, but have you had a chance to test that out in a professional capacity? Everything from office skills to hands-on field-work to “soft skills” such as making clients feel appreciated and understood, are all things you will learn during your internship. This, in turn, will come in handy when you’re ready to start mapping out your future career in that field. 

Discover Job Opportunities 

There’s a world of possibility out there, far beyond what you might see or hear about in your everyday life. How do you even know what types of career paths exist in your chosen field unless you dip your toe in first? As progress moves forward and the world changes, new careers open up to those who are ready to jump right in. Imagine being an intern at Facebook during its very earliest days. Did anyone know then how massive it would become, and all the different needs that would arise as it grew to dominate the world? 

Not all jobs are the same, and not all fields contain a narrow selection of careers. An interest in medicine does not necessarily mean you have to become a doctor. Like exercise and physical fitness? Why not consider an internship at NASA and help astronauts learn how to stay active in space! 

Internships require hard work and dedication; don’t think of this as a volunteer gig you can blow off when it gets hard. At the same time, allow yourself to be discerning when applying to internships. You certainly don’t want to work somewhere just because it looks good when you apply to college! Happiness and job satisfaction are equally as important as a shiny gold star on your resume.  

When looking for the right internship, your school guidance counselor is an invaluable resource. They are intimately familiar with the opportunities available in your area, as well as what each company desires in an applicant. You can also do a quick online search for internships based on where you live and what your field of interest might be. 

Best of luck! 

Florida’s young entrepreneurs are encouraged to apply for a Kantner Foundation college scholarship. Learn more by clicking here! 

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