Advice From a Former Intern

“Find what you’re passionate about and then find a way to make a living doing that.” I heard this simple and true career advice often in college. But for me, the “find what you’re passionate about” part wasn’t as easy as it sounded. I was your classic well-rounded college kid: English major, music minor, basketball player, society leader, etc. Yet as my college years ticked away and “real life” loomed, I couldn’t tell you I was “passionate” about anything in particular. Fast forward a few years and I can confidently tell you that I am passionate about agricultural estate planning.

How did I find this obscure and specific passion? Internships! From Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. to a small law firm in Columbia, Missouri, internships were the key experiences that led me to where I am now. Internships can do the same thing for you, especially if you haven’t found your passion yet.

You can Serve God in a Secular Internship

Before my first internship, I was set on spending my summer in some type of ministry like camp or a traveling music team. When both opportunities fell through, I started seriously asking God about what I should do with my summer instead of assuming what He wanted me to do with my summer. My mom suggested I look into internships, so I applied for several in Washington D.C.  That summer, I spent six weeks working for my state representative on Capitol Hill.  

While I was excited to see behind the scenes of politics in D.C., I never expected the level of intense spiritual growth that God would bring me through that summer. In addition to working on Capitol Hill, I attended a new church plant and served in the small congregation with other young professionals working in politics. I learned how to thirst for daily fellowship with God and fellowship with other believers, and that growth has directly affected on how I value my faith and interact with my local church body and colleagues now as a law student at a state university.

Choosing an internship over a summer ministry is not a less spiritual decision if you’re submitting to God’s leading. Don’t assume that your most valuable spiritual growth will happen when other Christians surround you. You will certainly be surprised by the opportunities you encounter to serve God and make your faith your own in a secular internship.

Internships will Inform Your Preparation for the Future

Before my internships, I had some ideas about which careers I would be good at and enjoy. Most of those options centered around politics. Then I did two political internships, and I found out I didn’t want to work in politics. At least not permanently. So, were those internships a waste of time and money? Of course not! After working in the political workforce and seeing the ins and outs of everyday life in that field, I was able to make more informed decisions about preparing for my future career instead of relying on the romanticized version of the work that I often saw portrayed in cultural media. The political internships gave me my first glance at the breadth of opportunities available in the law field, and that’s when I began seriously considering going to law school.

Internships not only allow you to see a profession in action, but they also allow you to use the best information, first-hand experience, to pivot your own plans. You can be confident that the profession you spent four years preparing for is one you’re actually cut out for. Furthermore, when you work alongside professionals in your desired field, you can observe the skills and traits that make them good at the job and plan to cultivate those in yourself so that you’re ready to be a valuable asset to your chosen field.

Internships are Critical to a Successful College to Career Transition

College is all fun and games until you have to find a job, make money, and pay the bills when it’s done. In addition, fresh college graduates often find it difficult to land a position in their desired field after graduation. Sometimes the job search is so strenuous that their first jobs after school don’t even require the Degree they spent years and money earning. Those experiences have caused some to question the efficacy of a liberal arts education at all.

However, research still indicates that the long-term earning power and employability increases concurrently with education. Often, the hardest gap to bridge between student and professional is what I call the “experience gap.” If you’ve spent any time job searching, you know what I’m talking about. Many entry-level positions require applicants to have 3-5 years of experience. It’s difficult to get experience when every position out there seems to require it in the first place.

That’s where internships are vital. While you may not have experience as a full-time professional, an internship in your desired field will be more attractive to an employer because it shows that you have encountered that line of work and the employer won’t have to train you from scratch.  

In addition, some companies fill their entry-level position exclusively from their intern pool – so landing an internship the summer before your senior year could open strong possibilities of having a job the day you graduate. These intern-to-entry-position pipelines are common in many large businesses, accounting firms, and law firms.

Practical Tips for Internships

Job shadow before becoming an intern

A job shadowing experience will give you an overview of a career field where you can ask questions and get the big picture. If you’re still interested in the field after a few days job shadowing, look for full-time or part-time internships so you can see the daily operation and ask more detailed questions of your employer. You can even ask the professional that you shadowed to give you tips on getting an internship in that specific field.

Plan ahead and be proactive

Apply for internships early and often. If you’re a sophomore or junior, start looking and applying in early Fall for internships the following summer as many organizations will begin interviewing candidates before Christmas. Cast your net wide and apply to several positions in a variety of areas. If you’re having trouble finding opportunities online, talk to your professors at Maranatha or other professionals you know about people who can help you find opportunities. Take responsibility and keep asking questions even if you seem to be hitting closed doors.

Consider multiple internships

Participating in multiple internships allows you to build your professional network and gain experience that will be attractive to future employers. In my experience, you will be more comfortable and assertive in your second internship than in your first one. Interns that take initiative will be given more responsibility and opportunities as they show themselves to be valuable members of the team, and valuable interns make valuable employees later. In addition, you can focus on getting your feet wet for your first internship, and then you will know how to find the best internships, or the paid internships, your second time around.

Don’t settle for comfortable

At MBU, we like to say that you don’t have to think small or have small dreams just because you go to a small school. Part of thinking big and dreaming big is stepping outside the box and outside your comfort zone. When you get outside the box, you will expose yourself to failure and rejection, but those opportunities allow you to challenge yourself before the stakes are too high. If you are an introvert like me, don’t use that as an excuse to stay in the shadows. Reach out to professionals and ask questions. Your internship will be the most beneficial if you take initiative and responsibility for your own experience.

Professors and staff at Maranatha are eager to help you succeed, and they are incredible resources for internships. Finally, remember that the more you put into an internship, the more you will get out of it.