Why to Consider a Long-Term Internship
“Try lots of new things. Wear lots of hats.”
That was the advice that one of my professors gave to me as I approached the end of my sophomore year of college. I was looking for my first internship as a journalism and communications student. I knew what skills in which I excelled, but I had no idea what kind of job would truly accentuate those skills.
This is the case for a lot of college students. And a lot of the time, this is why many students need to try several job fields before deciding on their career path.
There’s nothing wrong with this, either. It’s important to find the best fit for you during the formative years at university.
When I first started applying for internships, I thought I would be like most of my friends at school. Many of them worked in quarter-long internships, testing the waters constantly to see if each was the right fit. Then they would move on to the next.
I never thought I would, first of all, get a marketing internship, and second of all, never thought I would stay in that internship for over two and a half years.
Like I mentioned previously, this isn’t really the norm for college students. But I have learned that this experience has extremely valuable implications for young professionals looking to grow their experience.
Here are a few reasons why I think so.
Becoming an expert in your industry
When I started at Techstars, a startup accelerator network, in March 2016, I knew nothing about marketing. On top of that, my knowledge of the startup industry was limited to the one or two episodes of Shark Tank I had watched.
There was so much to learn, and I had to absorb everything. I made an important decision to commit to becoming an expert at what I was doing not only in this internship, but in the industry as well.
One of my first intern tasks was to schedule curated social media messages on Hootsuite. I found the top publications in the venture capital and startup industries, and began to read.
This sounds so simple, but it’s so important.
As I continued to learn about startups, I was able to communicate better to the audiences to which I was marketing.
I was able to show this quest for knowledge to my team, which encouraged them to fuel this professional growth by giving me more responsibility.
And even more importantly, when I was interviewing for full time positions after graduation, employers were impressed at this knowledge and were more likely to trust that I was committed to becoming an expert in their company’s industry.
Make a commitment to expertise. You’ll thank yourself later!
Increasing trust, and in turn, opportunity
When I started at Techstars, I was basically just scheduling social media messages. This was fine for me at the time, but I knew I wanted to show that I was capable of more.
As I gained knowledge over time, my team began to grant me access to more and more new projects and responsibilities. I was meticulous about details, deadlines, and clear communication. My team saw this, and merited me with growing opportunities to do more.
By doing consistently good work over your long-term internship, you increase the trust of those around you. This is where your internship goes beyond the proverbial fetching of donuts and coffee.
Your co-workers will see what you can accomplish, and they will want to contribute to your professional development with more opportunities.
As I am approaching my final day at Techstars tomorrow, I can look back and see a variety of projects I completed as a part of the marketing team, and also that I finished individually. It’s a great source of confidence for future employers if they can see this quality in you.
Work hard. Gain trust. Seize opportunities.
Gaining more and more new skills
If I had left my marketing internship after a few months, I would have learned how to use Hootsuite, how to edit and post a blog post on WordPress, and some other kind of vague skills.
While I understand that different internships work at different paces (you may learn tons in just a few weeks), building on your skills and refining expertise is something that happens over time.
When you commit to a long-term internship, you become a part of the company, the culture, and the industry.
You have more time to seize opportunity. You gain perspective that often cannot be attained in just a few months.
If you get this opportunity to intern at a company long-term, exude an openness to learning.
If someone in Operations asks if you can help with a project, say yes even if you know nothing about Operations. If you’re asked to take a stab at a problem, say yes even if you may need to ask some questions to find a solution.
Always be learning and gaining new skills — being at a company for more than three months gives you the opportunity to do that.
Say yes to new things. Embrace learning. Reach for new skills and goals.
My Techstars internship is in its last days as I am moving onto a full-time opportunity next week. Several people have asked me if I think staying in one place instead of adding lots of quarter-long internships to my resumé has been a good idea.
I say absolutely.
During this long-term internship, I gained industry expertise, an awesome network around the world, a love for learning, and a collection of marketable skills. I’d say that’s just as good as having several short-term roles listed on my resumé.
If you have the opportunity to stay at a company for awhile, take full advantage of it.
Try lots of new things there. Wear lots of hats.