“Go get an internship” is a classic piece of advice given to young people who need experience, direction, and mentorship. Interns are often portrayed as the coffee-carrying gophers of the workplace, but that's not always the case— many internships come with unexpected perks.
These nine internship positions vary in terms of time commitment and intensity but are all committed to helping students gain a deeper understanding what they actually want to do and help them get hands-on experience.
1. Apprenticeship Cooperative Education (Co-Op)
Apprenticeship Cooperative Education starts early in high school. Junior and seniors are able to participate in a one- or two-year paid work experience that is school supervised.
This program is a combination of classroom learning and applying those skills in a workplace. This is great for students testing out a career before they decide to go to college, or what to pursue in college.
2. Cooperative Education (Co-Op)
Some colleges let students take up to three semesters off during their college experience in order to test out different careers. Students work full time and are usually paid, which makes it different than a part-time internship.
Co-ops are helpful because they let students decided if they actually want to pursue the subject they are studying before they graduate. Plus, many university students are offered jobs from previous co-ops after graduation. Check with your counselor to see if the option if available.
Externships are shorter than traditional internships and usually take place over spring or summer break, or even during a January intersession.
Instead of working independently, externs use their limited time as more of a job shadowing experience. This is great if you’re not totally sure what aspect of a business you want to be working in and lets you observe everyone’s role (and ask a lot of questions!).
4. Field Experience
The goal of field experience is to get students out into the field that they are studying. This not only allows you to build experience but also lets you apply what you've learned in the classroom into the real world. Plus, it’s a great way to get to know a specific school or job site you might be interested in joining in the future.
Usually, students have a mentor or advisor both at school and in the field who can coach them through difficult situations and help make the most out of their field experience. Academic credit is usually awarded.
5. Intern Abroad
Sure, it’s hip to head to New York City or San Francisco to intern in finance and tech, but there are a lot of other great places to learn from great companies. Head overseas and intern abroad to learn different skills, new cultures, maybe even a different language!
Interning abroad gives you an understanding of cultural differences that will give you an advantage when doing business with other countries later. Plus, you’ll get the chance to explore a new country and make it your home away from home.
6. Intern at a Startup
One of the great complaints of an intern is that he or she doesn’t actually get to contribute to a company. Interning at a startup, especially an early age startup, is a great opportunity to make an impact.
At a startup, there is often more work to be done than people to do it, which leaves a great chance for you to do important work. Make your mark early and remember that startups hire quickly, too.
7. Nonprofit Intern
Deciding to dedicate your life to non-profit work is a big decision, so spending time there as an intern is a good test drive. Because non-profits are often stretched for resources, you’ll likely get to try out a lot of different aspects of the organization.
While your friends interning or co-oping at big companies might be making a lot of money, you’ll be able to make a lot of difference in what will probably be a small team of overworked people who will be glad to have fresh energy and enthusiasm.
Organizations like the YMCA, World Wildlife Fund, and Make a Wish Foundation are always looking for passionate people like you.
8. Service Learning
Service learning is used as a teaching tool that gives students hands-on skill-building opportunities through community service. Students dedicate the semester or year to one host site and connect learnings in class to experiences on the job.
This is a great way to put what you’re learning in class into practice, especially if you’re considering future careers in human services, social work, education, or non-profit work.
Practicum sounds like “practice” and that’s exactly what future doctors, nurses, teachers, and others on track for skills-based career need. During the practicum, these students work in the area of study they have been learning for years. This may manifest as student-teaching or spending a certain number of hours practicing social work in a clinic.
No matter which of these internship opportunities you choose, you’ll learn new skills and get your foot in the door, which will make your job search much easier. If you find you hated something you thought you were interested in you’ll have saved yourself time (and misery!) later. So think of an internship as a great test run, and get started.