By Jack Soto, Program Administrator, Internships and Career Readiness, American Indian College Fund
Internships are important help to students developing professionalism and an understanding of how to work in a professional environment. After having worked with Native student interns over the years in a professional capacity, I am sharing the following important insights for Native students when considering the importance of adding an internship to their college experience.
- Internships change the way you see and believe in yourself. The opportunity to engage with a professional environment impacts how a person reflects upon their skills and performance. As a person succeeds or fails at a given tasks, they are able to work through, understand, and move past given reflective points in day-to-day activity. You have an opportunity to learn what success means from others and how not to take failure personally.
- Internships offer both informal and formal mentoring opportunities. When you are in an internship, everybody is a mentor. Everyone has something to offer in reference to teaching you how to conduct simple operation tasks such as filing to large strategic tasks such as developing programs to impact larger organizational goals. It is not about a direct supervisor or a company leader; internships are about every aspect of the organization and everyone in it.
- Internships help develop a sense of work. Everyone has to learn the meaning of work to understand how they want to show up when they actually go to work. As you define your professional interests, you will learn how they can become either academic or career pursuits, meaning “I am interested in media and how does that translate into a job working with an agriculture-based organization?” Internships offer an opportunity to test the waters and learn what is known and unknown about a given profession. This allows you to dig deeper into determining what you want to do versus doing something that you think you “should” be doing as a career.
- Internships help develop meaning for a person. As a person explores a given profession or work environment through an internship, they begin to learn more about their internal ability to persist and external systems of support. This learning gives a person the capacity to begin to create and understand personal and professional success to develop goals. It begins to increase ability to achieve something with new information to perform at a different or more intentional level. Internships help you establish a stronger sense of self, through trial and error, to begin formulating a more focused life direction.
Internships, even those that are not the best experiences, play a crucial, if not critical, role in developing a stronger self-image, which lends to a more intentional and driven life plan. If you don’t believe me, I recommend finding someone who has participated in an internship and asking them about their experience—both good and bad—to learn how an internship shaped their professional path.