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Dec 08, 2016 11:31 AM EST

Career Internships: Why It's Important to Have Internship Experience Before Graduating

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UN unpaid intern quits job after having to live in a tent

The life of a college student is not easy. There's endless readings, assignments and projects to work on. Personal chores and bills to take care of and finding time to call home, catch up with old friends and meet new ones. Some even needs to work to support themselves and then to top it off, there's that internship.

Internship sometimes mean choosing working for free for a few months over a job that pays. It may include driving, commuting or moving to a new city. Sacrifices are often rewarded with non-tangible things like experience gained, industry knowledge and a professional network.

Internship also plays an important role in today's competitive job market. Data from Forbes and College Board shows that applicants with internship experience are more likely to get hired.

An internship is defined as "any temporary pre­professional experience that allows a student to test out a profession by exploring personal talent, gaining valuable skills and knowledge, and receiving daily feedback and constructive criticism."

A typical internship lasts from 3 months to a year and should be related to the intern's major and the field or career he intends to pursue after college. Companies and organizations often have internship programs that students can apply to. Any work experience not related to a college student's career path cannot be considered as intership.

Internships' main objective is for students to learn and find out if the field is for them. Interns get hands-on experiences that build confidence and skills by dealing with situations and problems they can expect when they start working.

Internship experience also include learning from seasoned professionals and experts who know the industry. Such experiences cannot be taught in classrooms or read from books.

Building a professional network is another reason why an internship is important. Interns get exposed to their industry's 'real world' and along the way meet people and other professionals that can open employment opportunities in the future. Some can be mentors and others can make important introductions or professional recommendations.

A final note: before hunting for internships, visit your school's Career Center so you will be properly guided and prepared since internships can be challenging and you might need to make some adjustments. They can also refer you to paid internship programs or those best suited for your career plans.

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