Gathering of college seniorsEven with all the scrutiny of unpaid internships (whether at the White House or at Fox Searchlight Pictures), it is wise to develop your resume through the pursuit of internships.  Pay or no pay, you need to enter into any work arrangement with a full understanding of what you should be getting out of that internship – besides a line item on your resume.

With that in mind, here are 8 things that you should try to get out of an internship.

1)      Work experience – Interning should help you learn how the “stuff” you learned about in the classroom is applicable to the “stuff” you do in real-life situations.  This is why Fox Searchlights lost in the recent intern labor lawsuit.  Daily tasks, such as taking out the garbage, ordering group lunches or answering the phones, provided no educational value to their staff of interns.

2)      Decide on the right career path – Even if your friends tell you that you “would be perfect at sales” based on your ability to make scintillating small talk at parties, a career in sales might not be the best for you, based on a whole other range of needed skills and compentencies.   Working for a company within your targeted business can give you valuable insight into whether or not you would be happy working in that industry.      

3)      Develop and enhance skills – Learning new skills and enhancing your current skill set can help you stand out from a crowded candidate pool.

4)      Compensation – Despite what we have all heard about the benefits of a White House internship or the fact that many believe that an internship at Fox Searchlight will bring you closer to decision makers and directors, internships should offer you some type of compensation.  It does not necessarily need to be a salary; it could be course credit, access to professional software that is not available in school, stipends for food and living expenses, and paid professional conference/seminar fees.

5)      Culture – the real world is nothing like to your college campus.  Internships allow you to work in different environments to see which one works best for you.  Each business model (large, multi-national; small family-owned; start-up) has their own unique cultural “pluses” and “minuses”. The trick is to figure out which one suits you best.

6)      Meet like-minded people – Internships can introduce you to other students and recent graduates who work in your field and share your same interests.

7)      Networking – Internships are a great way to build professional connections – to network. Networking is the one of the best ways to access the hidden job market.

8)      A job – an internship may be an audition for a full-time job with a company.  If you apply yourself with the same energy and effort as a full-time job, you might be surprised what happens.  Hard work, intelligence and dedication goes a long way.

So what do you think?  Are there any other benefits that an internship can offer?  We want to hear from you.  So comment below and let’s get a conversation going.

By Christiane Soto,