For many college students, there is a struggle every year between the desire to pursue a summer internship, which could lead to important hands-on experience, relationship building in a specific field, and a nice entry on a resume and a summer job, which provides the opportunity to make money. And while conventional wisdom would tell you to forgo the money today for the earnings potential tomorrow, that simply isn’t always the case. So if you are deciding between these two options, here are some things to consider.
How important is making money today? This is a question which only you can answer. If your summer earnings offset your college costs and allow you to attend college, then it is obviously more important to make money and continue your education than to take the internship and drop out of school. If, however, the money is to supplement your beer fund or to buy a nice wardrobe, you might want to reconsider the necessity of making money.
How important is the industry experience? For some industries, taking an internship which allows you to learn about the daily life in that career can be extremely valuable. As can the ability to make connections in a firm where you would one day like to work. In other industries, this may not be as important. Similarly, if you are still waffling between multiple career paths, an internship could help to determine which way you want – or do not want – to go.
Is this a company that will help you? If you are looking to be in consulting and have the opportunity to do an internship with Deloitte or PwC, then there is an obvious benefit to making connections at these companies and to learning how they run their business. Same goes with trade companies such as heating and cool which is precisely what Kim did at Macomb Heating & Cooling, he took an HVAC internship many years ago and has built upon this to form a very successful heating and cooling business. These internships will look great on a resume, and could help catapult your career. If on the other hand, the opportunity is with a small consulting firm where you would never want to work and which any prospective employers would have never heard of, it might make sense to pass. Taking an internship for the sake of being an intern is not a good idea – be selective.
Will you get college credit? Though internships are rarely paid, they often will give college credit. So if you can graduate a semester early by interning, or give yourself extra free time in your final year to apply to jobs, it could be worth taking the internship.
Will you learn anything? Whether at a job or internship, will you actually learn anything? Some internships allow for great learning opportunities, pairing you with someone in a role similar to what you would like to do upon graduation – you get to see the daily work schedule of that person, learn how they do their job and get skills which will matter in an interview. Other times, you are the office coffee-fetcher. Speaking to others who’ve done the internship before will help you to learn about it and see if there is any real value. The same can be said of a job – many summer jobs provide worthwhile experience in how to work in an office or corporate setting, allowing you to make mistakes and learn now rather than when you are in your profession. And if you can learn useful skills in a job, that can be worth far more than an internship.
Ultimately, everyone’s situation is different. But if you are in the situation where you need to choose between multiple jobs or internship offers, these questions should help you make the right choice.