With summer coming up, my husband and I were talking about important lessons we learned in college, and what we wish someone would have told us when we were younger.
Here’s my top lesson: Forget about making money during the summer and get a meaningful internship.
I see too many parents who can afford the tuition encouraging their kids to get a summer job to pay for part of the college expense. I believe most of those parents think they are doing their kids a favor by helping them understand the value of money and work, and letting their kids feel as if they are contributing to their education. But the few thousand dollars that child will make working at a fast-food joint or a retail job aren’t worth the lost opportunity of not doing an internship.
College is about getting experience, and in my opinion, the kind of experience that will help you get your dream job when you’re done. There’s no better way to get experience and make contacts than to do an internship in a field in which you want to eventually work.
And for heaven’s sake don’t be clueless like I was! I wanted to be a journalist and worked for a summer at the the local daily newspaper, but nobody talked to me about networking, building contacts, and keeping in touch with those contacts. I came away with some good experience (and the job even paid), but I still had no idea how to get a foot in the door on the writing side. A few simple lunches with discussions about freelancing would have been a good idea. Keeping in touch with people so that I had someone to contact two years later when I graduated would have been wise. But I didn’t do those things and ended up in a series of odd jobs (selling signs, working for an insurance broker) before I eventually went to graduate school.
As far as I know, your college years are the only time you’re “qualified” to do internships at fantastic companies. Don’t miss the opportunity.
I’m tweeting this post to my college students (and my High School senior!). Experience and networking are better than minimum wage.