Giving away your time and work ethic for free? You may be asking, why would I do that?

There are certain times and places when volunteering your time and effort can reap major benefits for your future. One of those times and places is in an internship – a part time, temporary position in your desired line of work that is typically unpaid. As an upperclassman in high school – or even as a college freshman or sophomore – you may think you have loads of time before you need to consider your professional life. But time flies, ladies and gentlemen. There is no time like the present.

While you’re still living at home, with no rent or bills to pay – that’s the prime time to seek out an internship. Of course, it’s never too late to interview for an internship, but the sooner you start gaining professional experience, the more comfortable you’ll be later on – both mentally and financially speaking. Students who have an opportunity to learn about a career early on are better prepared to choose a college, a major, and a career path. Other goals of an internship include, but are not limited to: gaining real-world, hands-on experience; learning about yourself; and networking.

Gain Knowledge and Develop Skills

The whole point of any class we take is to gain knowledge and develop skills that are relevant to our individual futures and goals. Throughout high school, what we are really learning is to problem solve, developing work ethic, and teach the mind how to grasp concepts and adapt. College and internships, however, are more specific and skill-based, providing foundational tools for future employment. The information and hands-on experience we gain while interning with a local newspaper editor, alongside a marine biologist, or with a financial consultant, for example, is priceless. You will learn what it’s like to be that person, to walk in their footsteps. This insight is exactly what a young adult needs to prepare for his or her professional life. But this is only one of the main purposes of an internship.

Résumé Builder

The dreaded résumé. That simple document that can make or break an opportunity, especially for young adults. It’s what showcases your experience, soft and hard skills, and your education and certifications. Today, a degree alone is not enough to land you your dream job. With the market for employment as competitive as ever – and getting more competitive by the day – you really need a background that will make you stand out. That being said, an internship is one of the most valuable experiences you can have on your résumé. Taking part in real-world apprenticeships, in combination with your schooling, will show dedication, professionalism and exposure to a working environment. With these tools in your back pocket you should feel confident and comfortable when flying the coop and carving your own path in world of cut-throat business.

Networking

There is a saying, “it is not about what you know, but who you know.” Although our knowledge and skills are crucial, life works in mysterious ways. Sometimes a random person from our past ends up being the most advantageous for our future. While working as an intern at a corporate banking office in the financial district, you could very well encounter the department head of your dream company during a board meeting that you are observing. Or maybe that random person you met at a conference for sports writers ends up having an inside connection at ESPN, and his recommendation ultimately gives you an edge in a highly competitive market. The point is, establishing professional contacts, making social connections, and leaving a lasting impression could open many doors.

Learning About Yourself

For those of you who are unsure about your career path and cannot confidently answer the question, “what do you want to be when you grow up,” internships and apprenticeships can help. One of the goals of an internship is to help you discover what you do and do not enjoy doing. By sampling career paths and immersing yourself in the duties of a job’s requirements and environment, you can better confirm or deny your drive to pursue that career path. Along the way, you may also discover a whole new set of skills, or passion for an occupation you weren’t even considering before. Self-discovery is paramount when figuring out what to do with your life. All people strive for happiness, and it’s the joy we extract from our workplace, our social interactions and our outlook on life that will ultimately support that happiness.

The goals of internships are to help you discover your passions, boost that résumé, and provide you with priceless, real-world experience. Whether you have known what you want to do since you were in elementary school or are struggling to figure it out, seek assistance in finding an internship today. Jump start your future! Through experience we gain wisdom, and that wisdom will determine your choices, solidify your values and help you grow, personally and professionally.