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October 29, 2013

Who Says I Should Be An Intern?

Jamie Allebach
Jamie Allebach Chief Executive & Creative Officer

As a college student finishing up my senior year, one of my final requirements to graduate is to log a certain number of hours at an internship. Many people I’ve talked to dread this part of their college career, saying it’s just a waste of time and that they’d never do it again. Are internships as bad as they sound, or could they be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made? As I’m halfway through the fall semester as well as my internship with Allebach Communications, I thought it would be helpful to explore what an internship really is in this essay.

The number one problem people have with an internship is that, more often than not, it’s unpaid. It goes against logic to spend time and gas money on a job that takes without giving. How will you pay for rent? Or groceries? The phone bill? These things weigh heavy on the mind as you rack up the hours without a paycheck at the end of the week. Worse yet, once it’s all over you go work a full day at your retail job so you can make ends meet. It’s a rigorous schedule, and most definitely not for the faint of heart. Going to school, going to your internship, going to your job, managing your home life–that’s a lot of stuff to juggle.

You may be saying to yourself, “but it’s not fair! My parents never had to do all of this stuff!” And you’d be right. My dad got a full-time job right after graduating from high school and he’s been there ever since; 30 years, just a little longer than he’s been married to my mom. There were no college degrees, PhD’s or internships, people just stuck with a company and worked themselves up the ladder. You don’t see many people going from entry-level position to CEO today, now things are different. Instead of working the same job for half a century, people nowadays are working 15-20 different jobs during a 50 year career. That’s a new job roughly every three to four years. So if it’s going to be like that, it looks like there will be much more than one job interview in the future for everyone.

People will tell you, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” I love this saying, but it is the enemy of every 22-year-old with a fresh four-year degree who can’t seem to get their foot in the door at any well paying jobs. It’s a small world in whatever industry you work in and most everybody knows everyone else. Ask any employer and they’ll tell you, they’d rather hire someone who they know is good at what they do rather than someone who graduated with a high GPA but has no networking or work experience. This is all just par for the course nowadays, employers want to take as small a risk as possible when hiring someone new.

Getting an internship should be a no-brainer, yet it is still difficult to get up and do. As long as you don’t completely screw up, the benefits of having one are innumerable. The first and foremost is job experience; the intersection of what you learned at school and what you can actually do. This is the kind of stuff that looks great on a resume and you can really sell yourself with this information. The second benefit is the act of getting your name out in the industry. Sometimes the company you intern for may hire you after your term is complete. Other times, you may get hired for a new job because your internship supervisor recommended you to your new boss. Hint: if you can get people to associate your name with “hard worker,” things will become a lot more fruitful. An internship is a perfect way to market yourself.

So what’s it been like for me interning at Allebach Communications? It has been great, mostly due to the fact that I’m not getting paid. Sounds funny doesn’t it? It’s true though. If I was getting paid, I’d have a lot of bad days here because I’d feel like I was wasting time understanding the learning curve. Because I’m not getting paid, I don’t feel guilty at all trying news things even if I’m not good at them. My time here has been really valuable. I’ve been able to sit in with both right and left brained people while at the same time figuring out what my strengths and weaknesses are. There is definitely a difference between watching someone on YouTube telling you how to design an ad and having an expert sit five feet from you to tell you how to do it.

I know many people, including myself, are into the “self-teaching” methods of the Internet, but there’s something humbling and rewarding about silencing yourself and listening to the wisdom of others who probably know a lot more than you do.

My time at my internship has been and continues to be a great learning experience. I encourage anyone who’s on the fence about starting one to get up and do it. At the very least, you’ll learn if you don’t like something and save yourself from hating your future job. But at the very most, you’ll find yourself learning things faster than you ever had before while also building a reputation for yourself.

-Matt Sharayko