By Tanya Gibbs
In order to build your future career, it’s always best to start early. As an educator in constant contact with various industries, I cannot stress enough how important it is for students to gain work experience while they are still in university. Internships allow you to put into practice all you learned in class and provide work experience that enhances your resumé. The earlier you start, the more likely you will end up with a job that you like and are well-suited for.
For many of the undergraduate degree programs at American University of Sharjah (AUS), the completion of an internship is a requirement for graduation. However, because these real-world experiences are so valuable, I encourage you to complete several internships.
Why are internships so important?
- The majority of employers value work experience above the academic performance. According to an annual survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), for 95 percent of employers a job candidate’s experience was the main factor in their hiring decision.
- Students can test drive not only their major but also their career path. An internship can lead to you to realize that the major you initially chose does not translate into a dream job. Or, you might discover a new professional field in which you’d like to pursue a career. By still being a student, you will have a chance to supplement your knowledge with additional course work, which will better prepare you for this new career path.
- Internships will help you identify your knowledge gaps. You can fill these by the strategic selection of additional courses prior to graduation.
- Internships will help you sharpen soft skills, such as business communication, teamwork, problem solving, leadership and more.
- Internships will help you build your professional network. Every one you meet at your internship placement can be a potential contact for job referrals after graduation.
- Searching for an internship itself provides experience in networking – a tool all professionals need to have. Internships can turn into a full-time job.
To those students who are now preparing to complete an internship this summer, I encourage you to make the most of this excellent opportunity. You are laying a solid foundation for your professional success before you even enter the workforce. Ask questions, listen carefully to feedback and think about what you have learned. You might be surprised by where these lessons will lead you.