Internship Vs. Summer Job


“Should I get an internship?”

That’s the question I asked myself every year in college as I started thinking about what I was going to do each summer. Of the four summers I had during college (yes, I took a victory lap!), I spent the first three working standard summer jobs. I waited tables, worked in a warehouse, and then my crowning achievement – I fixed ticket jams at Chuck E. Cheese!

It was about the cash…

All those jobs paid me well for a college student. I was able to take my girlfriend out on nice(ish) dates, plan some weekend beach trips, and, on occasion, even swap out my Ramen and Steak-umms for a nice DiGiorno! I mean, what college student doesn’t want extra cash?

But, at some point, that cash dried up and I knew I needed to think more long-term. No matter how much cash I made during the summer, the chances of my wallet being empty again sometime during the fall semester was sitting at about 100%. I realized I needed something else.

I needed experience!

And I needed real-world coaching. My professors were great, and they worked hard to make sure I was prepared for life after college. But they also wanted to make sure the other students  graduating with my same degree (my competition) were also prepared.  I needed something else to make me stand out from my peers, and I just didn’t think Chuck “Entertainment” Cheese was going to be it.

What to look for in an internship

It can be confusing and overwhelming. With just a quick search of “marketing internships”, the results seemed endless! I had to remember why I was looking at internships instead of summer jobs in the first place. I boiled it down to a few questions:

  • Is it paid?
  • Will I enjoy it?
  • Will I gain valuable professional training and experience?
  • Will I gain valuable professional connections?
  • Will they be invested in me after the internship?

Is it paid?

Uh hello… Just because it’s not the most important thing doesn’t mean it’s not important. If I wanted to volunteer, I’d go to a charity! I didn’t expect to make a ton of money in an internship, but if I was planning on working my butt off for a company, I expected to be compensated in some way. I’m not free labor.

Will I enjoy it?

Similar to the question above… An internship didn’t need to be the most fun thing I had ever done in my life, but it did need to keep my attention. As I started looking into the many internships I found in my search, I began to see that many of them were working in a stuffy office doing mainly administrative tasks (fancy phrase for filing papers), While some may enjoy that sort of thing, it was not for me!

Will I gain valuable professional training and experience?

It’s one thing to be able to list any old internship on a resume. That may help you land an interview with a great company down the road.  But once you get into the interview and are asked what you accomplished during the internship, is the list long or short? Is it impressive or boring? Is the experience you gained going to give you a head start on other new employees? The experience itself didn’t seem valuable, I said “next” and moved onto looking at the next internship.

Will I gain valuable connections?

This is a subject I didn’t think about at first during my internship search, but we’ve all heard the adage “It’s not what you know, but who you know”.  And while I don’t like the dismissive nature of that statement toward knowledge, it certainly has an element of truth. When searching for an internship I wanted to know if the people I would be working for or working with were connections that could possibly help me start my full-time career in the field I wanted.

Will they be invested in me after the internship?

We’ve all heard the stories about someone who took an internship, worked hard, put it on their resume, but never heard from the company they interned for ever again outside of using them as a reference check. That’s not what I wanted. I wanted a company that would work to be an active participant in my career growth after the internship ended. A company that would help me with interview coaching, resume editing, job seeking tips, etc.

After you’ve asked all these questions, that incredibly long list of internship options should have been narrowed down quite a bit. For me, it lead me to AC. And for the last 10 years, my past experience as an AroundCampus intern has been a focal point in my career growth. No one internship is right for everyone, but if you’re anything like me then an internship with AC is probably perfect for you.

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