Christina Davis, Contributing Writer
As the fall semester at the University of Dallas begins, many students may have recently said goodbye to an internship or are gearing up for a new one. Some might look back on their days as an intern and remember the grueling hours, boring tasks and minimal stipend (if any), but perhaps forget to note the intrinsic skill acquisition, self-growth and professional development they acquired over the summer. Being an intern may not have been the most glamorous memory of summer, but it is the most valuable investment in your career capital.
The value of an internship begins on day one. Responsibilities might range from data mining to blogging to answering phones. Though these daily duties might seem trivial, they significantly help your supervisor and the company as a whole. As Vince Lombard, former head coach of the Green Bay Packers, said, “Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”
The skills you acquire as an intern establish a foundation on which to build more specialized skills. Data mining builds research skills for running financial analysis. Blogging helps you develop a strong, punchy writing style that can lead to writing columns or issue briefs. Phone communication skills can give you an edge at managing future team projects. The hidden gem of internships is the accumulation of new skills that you never thought you could acquire.
Working as an intern exposes you to career options you might never have considered. Maybe you were never really interested in finance. Or perhaps you really enjoy the creativity in writing. The importance is to not let your intern duties deter your career aspirations — all intern work is hard, but very rewarding. From the nuts and bolts of the everyday grind comes deeper knowledge of yourself. As Gandhi simply yet brilliantly noted, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” On top of the skills you have acquired from your internship is a new layer of self-knowledge. Internships provide experiences that help you better understand your abilities and aspirations.
Successful internships provide an additional tool for your future career — a professional network. The professional relationships you develop are as important as the relationships you foster outside of the workplace. Supervisors can offer advice and serve as mentors in career development. The professional network is a community that challenges you to grow in excellence. Working as an intern gives you insider access to any professional community, be it legal, corporate or medical.
An internship in your field of interest is an incredible opportunity for personal and professional growth and development. Though they can be challenging, and sometimes even downright dull, internships open doors to new dreams, mentors and skills that last longer than a few months of the summer. They are something that will last you a lifetime.