Choosing The Right Summer Internship

Internships are among the most important things a college student can do to understand what they want to do when they graduate.  They are also deeply important to being able to convince prospective employers that they are the right candidate for the job (any job).  For our sophomore and junior clients, this is what we are working with them on – summer internships.

Justin is a junior majoring in business who I have been working with to help him get an internship for next summer.  Justin did all the right things. He worked to engage his school career services and his professors, he connected with alumni, he looked on line at companies that he was interested in, and he engaged his network.  As is so often the case, it was his network that came through. About 2/3rds of the clients we work with get an internship because someone opens a door for them or at least advocates for them. For Justin this meant he got that first phone interview.  After that he was on his own to win a spot in the summer internship pool. Justin succeeded, but he had a problem. It was a very good problem to have, but it was still a problem. He had two good offers.

The internships were very different.  The first one was a very large company, and the second one was a much smaller company.  The role in the larger company was a sales and marketing role, and Justin was leery of the sales part. The smaller company was more in his comfort zone – mostly marketing and analytics.  The larger company had a well-defined program and the smaller one would be more-or-less making up the internship for him. The larger company was going to require that he spend the summer a thousand miles from home (and from his girlfriend), and the first one would keep him in the Northeast, which he was hoping for.  The large company was going to pay him the second one was not.

There are two points I want to make here about internships.  First, on face-value, both are, or could be, good internships.  A well put together internship is not necessarily better than a less structured one in a smaller company.  They will offer different things. The well-structured one with be, well, well-structured. The smaller, less structured one may be more chaotic, but you may have more opportunity to get broadly involved. Staying in your part of the country isn’t better or worse necessarily.  Doing an internship that is 100% in your sweet spot may end up better in terms of learning more about your chosen field. On the other hand, when challenged aspects of business you haven’t considered before, like sales for Justin, you could discover something you love. So the pluses and minuses need to be considered side by side.

But if you are lucky enough to have this kind of good problem regarding intern options, or really most options, my second point is really a wish for you all. When faced with these kind of challenges – I hope you all lean in, explore, and really challenge yourself.  Never been off the west coast – take that opportunity in South Carolina. Did you, like Justin, have an internship the prior summer in a small company – give a large company a shot.

Justin did a lot of thinking, and a lot of talking to people who he respected.  It would clearly be simpler for him to take the smaller company, stay in the area and do an internship more tightly wrapped around his growing interest in marketing.  But he is headed south to the larger company, because, in his assessment, that is where he will grow the most.

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