Whether it's voluntary or required by your school, an internship offers numerous benefits regardless of whether you're paid.
Gaining Work Experience
Interns get an insider's look at an organization. This is your chance to see the big picture — how various departments contribute to meeting goals, how an organization fits into the industry as a whole, and how the industry works.
As part of your job training, you'll also be given specific tasks to complete, which gives you a close-up view of a particular role and work environment. For example, if you're studying human resources and land an internship in an HR department, you may get involved in the hiring process of recruiting, screening, and onboarding job candidates. You'll also learn about other HR functions, such as compensation and benefits, allowing you to decide if you want to be a generalist or a specialist in one of these areas.
Making Professional Connections
As you work at your internship, you'll start to build relationships with your supervisor and others in the organization. These connections with industry professionals can be incredibly valuable to you immediately after graduation and long into the future, as these people may be able to help you secure jobs. As you interact with your co-workers, look for opportunities to show them your interest, dedication, and enthusiasm for your career. One way you can maintain these connections is through LinkedIn, a social media platform for professionals.
Learning From a Mentor
Any one of the people you work with may develop into a mentor. Not only can this person teach you what they've learned about the profession, industry, and specific workplaces, they may help you identify your strengths and skills. If you continue to nurture this relationship, it could continue on long after you've moved on to another position or company.
Enhancing Your Resume
Once you graduate and start submitting your resume to prospective employers, you'll be able to present yourself in a much better light by showing that you already have relevant, professional work experience. You'll be able to list the specific job duties and skills you learned during your internship. If your experience was particularly positive, you might even be offered a full-time job with the organization where you completed your internship.