For me, this provided quite a bit of uncertainty with regard to how I wanted to spend my career. I found that the best way to mitigate the risk of landing in a position that did not fit my individual personality and skills was to obtain a summer internship. As a freshman and sophomore I was constantly told how important internships and co-ops were for the “work experience.”
While I believe this was meant in terms of making yourself more valuable to a company looking to hire you upon graduation, I think the real importance lies in finding what company and position brings out the greatest value in you.
Why pursue an internship?
The No. 1 reason to do a summer internship is to find what work best suits you. As a sophomore, I thought I had it all figured out. I knew exactly what I wanted to do and had my future planned. Needless to say, I was wrong. Participating in a summer internship that year helped me realize how important it is to get into the work environment early. Some people, much like I did, think by sitting in class you can find out what field of work fits you best. While your studies can point you in the right direction, they do not always reflect what will best suit you. There is so much more to subject matters than what is conveyed in a classroom. Seeing these things firsthand in the real world can completely change your mind about what you envision yourself doing for the rest of your life.
I found that a summer internship was a nice alternative to the co-op format. If you are the type of person who does not want to give up a semester of school, postpone your graduation date, or commit to a three-semester co-op, an internship is a great opportunity. While I do not want to diminish the value of a co-op, which is a great route for some, I think an internship gives you just as valuable an opportunity to show what you are made of. Ten to 12 weeks of work for a company is an abundant amount of time to see if it is the right fit for you, and for the company to decide if you are what they are seeking in a full-time employee. Even if you find yourself short of enthralled by the job, you still have an idea of what you do not see yourself doing in the future, which is just as valuable as finding something that sparks your interest.
What to look for in an internship
When shopping around for an internship, make it an utmost priority to find the place where you can learn the most. Do not be afraid to branch out, whether it be it location or a field of work you are not entirely comfortable with. Choose a position you think will influence your career path the most. The most important factor in your overall happiness with your career is finding a company that makes you feel the most comfortable and makes you excited to go to work every day.
How to make the most of the opportunity
Ask questions! It is important to learn as much as you can during your internship. Sometimes it may feel intimidating to ask questions, but remember, everyone has been in the same position at some point and no one expects you to know everything. It is amazing what you can learn by building a good relationship with your mentor or supervisor and becoming comfortable asking them for help.
Secondly, show you are hard working. In many respects, an internship is a tryout for a full-time position. If your performance is exceptional, you may find yourself with a full-time job offer when your internship is complete. If you decide you do not fit in well with the company, you will always gain a solid recommendation as a result of your hard work.
Summer internships were the greatest decision I made during my years in college. The summers I spent working after my sophomore and junior years led me to an internship with Waggoner that solidified in my mind where I needed to be. I instantly felt like I meshed well and was at home with Waggoner, and they could bring out my best qualities. My internship allowed the company to recognize I could be an asset to their team and provided me with a full-time job offer before graduation that made my final semester of school much less stressful.
» Wilson Crockett began a full time career in engineering with Waggoner Engineering in January 2015, after completing an internship the prior summer in the hydraulics and hydrologic engineering department.