What’s in an Internship? – A Reflection

Cave drawing and carrier pigeons were a thing of the past when I went to college, but we still hadn’t gotten beyond typewriters and landlines. If you were really high tech, you’d have an ELECTRIC typewriter—woo hoo! No one had computers and the closest things to cell phones that we knew of were the communicators on Star Trek. Another thing I never heard of back in the day? Internships; can’t remember even hearing the word when I was in college.

Now, if you want to be competitive when you graduate college, having multiple internships on your resume is essential. Since I’ve been working with SRA, it’s been eye-opening for me to hear about our students’ wide array of internship experiences.

Internships help you figure out what you want to do, as well as what you DON’T want to do. Did you start out wanting to be a doctor so that you can help people in need but find that hardcore science classes like biochemistry don’t float your boat? Then you can check out public health internships, since public health offers a great alternative where you can help underserved populations. If you want to run a non-profit one day, why would you do a business internship? Because many of the same skills apply, that’s why! Even when you do an internship that isn’t directly related to your career path, you’ll get transferrable skills that will help you move forward.

One thing I’ve seen very clearly since I’ve worked on internships with SRA is the power of NETWORKING. A great example is one of our students who made it a point to talk to a professional from Genentech, a major global pharmaceutical company, at the SRA Career Workshop last winter. He asked for her contact information and then sent her an email after the workshop to thank her for her time. A couple of months later, when he applied for a summer internship in her department, she remembered him even though she received about 700 applications. Guess where he is interning this summer?

So what have I learned vicariously through the experiences of SRA students? If I could enter a parallel universe where I was starting college now, I would look for internships to expose me to new things and expand my perspective. When I found something that got me excited and made me want more, I’d make every possible connection and be first in line to apply for opportunities that will pave the road toward reaching my career goals.