Thursday, September 1, 2016

How My Internship Experience Was More Beneficial Than Any Class I've Taken In College
How My Internship Experience Was More Beneficial Than Any Class I've Taken In College
In the calming lull after finishing my last internship and the new fall semester, I've taken some time to reflect on all the things I've learned this summer. For 10 weeks I dedicated myself to learning about the field of Digital Marketing, but the experience of working a regular 9 to 5 job showed me more than how to generate higher reach or create engaging content. 
Supplementing (or deviating from) University Curriculum
An internship program should reinforce school curriculum or provide an environment for a student to apply their classroom knowledge. Having a challenging yet memorable internship not only allows you to gain valuable industry experience, but reinforces the confidence and motivation for the subject. An in some cases, you may realize that you really don't like working in your field and hey, that's okay! Better to know sooner rather than later and adjust accordingly.
In my case, my school does not offer a comprehensive marketing program. In fact, it's actually just 2 or 3 classes offered at the business school and even so, are extremely hard to get into. I was lucky enough to enroll in a student taught Marketing Thought Leadership class that met once a week for one hour. It wasn't much, but the material gave me the tools and knowledge to land my first marketing internship. From there, I built on top of what I already knew and did it within the context of the corporate world. Sometimes, the biggest hindrance in school is knowing that whatever supply and demand graph you're currently learning about will never be useful to you past the final (Unless you plan to go into some ridiculously detailed and technical research). More and more, we are seeing a gap between what is taught in school and what skills are necessary for a job. And while the problems that underlie that gap are rooted in a more complex institutional system, an internship could be one way to remedy that problem. 
A Deloitte Survey reveals the gaps between skills developed in school and skills valued by employers. source: 
Job prospects also look significantly better if you work an internship, and who wouldn't want the comfort of having a job on the other side of that graduation stage? About 60% of paid interns will get a full time offer
Tailored Projects and Different Styles of Problem Solving 
One of the best things about an internship is being devoted to a project that you've either found fascinating or is tailed to your professional goals and organization's needs. Not only does it give you the application of what you (hopefully) learned in school, but it gives you a tangible goal to achieve at an end date. 
My fondest memory of the summer was sitting down with my manager and her asking me, "So, what do you want to learn this summer?" It threw me off guard because I was expecting to be thrown into work that was needed to be done for the department. It was a breath of fresh air; she really did care about my professional development! My project and other side tasks were tailored to my goals and I was able to work more with brand KPIs and budget forecasting. 
Additionally, interning is a great opportunity to think about or approach problems in a completely different way that is taught in school. Class problem sets can get tedious very quickly and usually follows the rhythm of problem, constraints and solving for the unknown. Obviously, the world's problems don't operate on such a linear system of thinking. An internship will allow you to experience a more nuanced and deeper level of problem solving, usually involving multiple components and dealing with top-down or bottom-up approaches to solutions. 
Going Beyond Just Learning about the Subject
The aforementioned perks are just some of the career development and academic benefits that transcend an internship. Supplementing the work are opportunities fornetworking, learning business etiquette and hopefully getting your hands on some free food (because we're college students and fully appreciate any meal we don't have to cook ourselves)! Networking will truly work wonders for starting out a career--with applicants pools getting more and more competitive, sometimes your edge isn't the extra GPA point but who you know. Networking is also another great opportunity to learn more about your co-workers, so you can keep those connections even after you've left. I can't stress networking enough. Now being an upperclassmen in college, I wish I did this more often when I was younger! 
Any internship will help you carve your ever-malleable early career path, whether it be reinforcing what you already know or showing you something completely different about the subject or yourself. Working that 9 to 5, grunting through some spreadsheets, and bonding with other co-workers should be cherished as a defining summer experience. Because, when else will you have an opportunity like this? 
Samantha Yen is currently a junior at the University of California, Berkeley studying Environmental Economics and Art History. In her free time she enjoys playing drums, finding new eats, and napping.  Samantha is interested in a career in Content Marketing or Brand Management. #studentvoices
This post was written as part of the #interning series, which is tied to LinkedIn’s student editorial calendar. #studentvoices
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