There’s no question about it, a technology internship will help jumpstart your future tech career if you approach it in the right way. But, it won’t be helpful for the reasons you think.
Let me explain.
Going back to the early 2000s when I was getting my undergrad degree from the University of Iowa, I never ventured out to get an internship. I had my career path set (so I thought), and I would be working with my oldest brother right out of school.
Because of this, I didn’t think it was necessary for me to get an internship. An internship was just a resume builder after all, right? It was just a way to show hiring managers that I took the initiative to seek out an internship. I didn’t really need to impress my brother… he had already given me a job.
Plus, I didn’t need to earn any extra money. I already had a job at the University’s College of Pharmacy in their IT department. I mean, that was the second reason to get an internship, to make extra cash... right?
It turns out that this is only partially true, and I found this out a couple of years after graduation. It became even more clear later in life when I started interviewing interns and hiring many of these interns as full-time team members. More on this in a moment.
For now, let’s get back to my job out of school.
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My Internship Realization
After a little over two years of working with my brother in his information technology business, I decided to make a transition over to Corporate America to work my way up to IT leadership.
During the interview process, I began to realize that the jobs I listed on my resume didn’t really matter. The hiring managers didn’t care what the job said.
They only cared what I did in those jobs. Not what my team or company did, but what I personally did. What was I personally responsible for in my position? What were my accomplishments?
You see, this shined a bright light on the fact that an internship without purpose may not be as beneficial as you think.
However, when you go into your technology internship with the goal of learning as much as possible, you’re going to position yourself nicely for your future tech career.
As I’ve interviewed countless interns over the past years, this is something that I would continually look for. I was impressed to see that a candidate had taken the initiative to seek out and complete an internship.
Yet, I was even more impressed when the candidate could tell me stories about their personal accomplishments during their internship.
We can boil things down to a couple key ways an internship will help your future tech career (if you go about it in the right way):
#1: You’ll Gain Valuable Experience
If you’re able to find an internship that is closely related with the tech career you’ll be seeking upon graduation, then your internship experiences will be much more impressive. With this said, a general IT internship is still more valuable than a summer working at the local grocery store
(And, I can knock the local grocery store because that was my summer—which did have it’s own benefits… but none of which compare to if I had worked a summer in an IT position).
#2: You’ll Better Understand Whether You're Headed In The Right Direction
Let’s face it, you may think you want to be a software engineer or a network engineer, yet that could change after an internship doing that type of work. An internship is a great way to better understand if you’re headed in the right direction.
If you go through your internship and realize the type of work you completed isn’t the best fit, then you still have time to pivot. Without a tech internship, you could end up taking your full-time tech career in a completely wrong direction where you’ll be unhappy.
The Bottom Line
If you’ve been going back and forth as to whether an IT internship is right for you, it’s time to get off the proverbial fence and start your internship search.
Happy internship hunting, and let me know how your search goes.
Ryan has been heavily involved in the world of Information Technology and entrepreneurship since the early 2000s. From small business consulting to Fortune 500 IT leadership, Ryan has a wide array of tech industry knowledge. Ryan has his BBA and MBA from the University of Iowa. Connect with Ryan on Twitter or Instagram.