Hands-On Experience: The Value of Internships

Classroom training and studies are often the easy part of finding and obtaining a job in your chosen profession today.  To stand out in the job market, a comprehensive education, coupled with hands-on experience and training can play an essential role in getting the ideal job upon completion of your program. The opportunity to take formal training and put it to practice in an internship, externship, apprenticeship, or even through volunteering can have a huge impact on career and employment opportunities.

Internships and externships are both types of work experience that offer participants the opportunity to learn and gain experience in a chosen field. The differences between the two types of hands-on training are subtle; the main differences are often the duration of the training and payment for the positions.

Internships are designed to offer hands-on experience, typically near or at the end of your formal training or education.  A good internship can assist with finding permanent employment in a given field. Internships are often part-time opportunities, the duration ranging from few weeks to a few years. These positions are sometimes paid, but can also be unpaid or for-school credit, depending on the program. Internships are beneficial to both the student and employers; they are a great way for students to gain hands-on training and experience while allowing employers to observe and train potential employees inexpensively.

Externships are similar in nature to an internship, but are usually shorter in duration and are often more of an opportunity to observe the job duties and skills rather than training and actively doing the job. Externships are typically offered earlier in training programs, which allows you to get a feel for the occupation before fully committing to the career path. Most externships are unpaid positions, and do not include credit toward studies.

An apprenticeship is a paid job that offers someone who is new to a profession the opportunity to learn from an individual who is considered an expert in his or her field. Apprenticeships are both a job and an education and typically last over a period of years. Apprenticeships are offered for virtually any job you can imagine and allow an apprentice to become highly skilled in all areas of a profession until they are able to successfully do the job independently.

Volunteer opportunities are another important way for students to get hands-on experience in a chosen career field. Volunteers do not get paid, but do learn new skills that can be valuable to a new career or job path.

In addition to the hands-on experience to compliment classroom learning; internships, externships, apprenticeships, and volunteer work will allow you to enhance your resume and make valuable connections with others in your chosen industry. These experiences allow you to establish contacts for networking, receive letters of recommendation from professionals in the field, and make a substantial contribution to overall job potential.

Not all programs offer internships or hands-on experience with the training, so sometimes you just have to create the opportunity or find one on your own. The internet is always a great place to start. Search for local postings in your field and contact agencies or businesses. Often times, telling them about your training and goals to work within the industry to gain some experience can lead to internship opportunities and/or volunteer work. Charities and community service programs can also be a great resource to make connections locally and they may be willing to assist you in finding opportunities that are not openly advertised.

Many employers give preference in hiring individuals who have previous internship experiences in their respective fields. Showing potential employers you stand out in your field can be directly related to any internships, externships, apprenticeships, and volunteer work you have completed in your field of study. The key is to highlight the knowledge, skills and experience you gained from your training and hands-on experiences.

Below are some resources you may find useful in your search for an internship:

How to Get an Awesome Internship http://www.forbes.com/sites/francesbridges/2012/05/31/how-to-get-an-awesome-internship/

Defining the Six Most Common Internship Types https://www.wetfeet.com/articles/defining-the-six-most-common-internship-types

5 Most Common Internship Interview Questions and How to Answer Them http://www.vault.com/blog/interviewing/5-most-common-internship-interview-questions-and-how-to-answer-them/

8 Questions to Ask in an Interview for an Internship http://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/8-questions-ask-internship-interview

The 6 Most Important Internship Tips & Takeaways http://www.rasmussen.edu/student-life/blogs/main/6-most-important-internship-tips/



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