College is a great place to learn time management and fundamental concepts before entering the workforce. But let’s face it – when it comes time to actually getting a job, hands-on experience is the X-factor, and that’s what could ultimately position you in the fast lane on the road to your future.
I strongly believe that pairing your formal education with real-world job experience is what will put you at the front of the line for the best jobs coming out of college. Even more than that, if you decide starting a business is your thing, you’ll be much more prepared to take the leap into entrepreneurship than if you only had your classwork experience to guide you. Follow me for a few minutes while I show you how crucial my internship experiences were on my journey through college and into my business career.
Anyone who knows me knows I’ve always loved teaching myself how to use new technologies. So when Unisys, a large computer company out of the Twin Cities, was on our campus at the University of Minnesota-Morris during my sophomore year hiring for full-time jobs, my ears perked up. It didn’t matter to me that they were only interviewing juniors and seniors for full-time jobs – I was bound and determined to get my foot in the door and convince them that they should also be looking for interns, too. To make a long story short, I got in front of the right person, convinced them to interview me, and a short time later was offered an internship for the second half of my sophomore year… on the last day of finals week! I instantly said yes, packed up my stuff, and crashed on my sister’s couch for five months in Minneapolis. To make sure I didn’t fall behind in school, I took night classes at the Twin Cities campus while working at my full-time internship.
The work I did and experience I gained at Unisys was more than I expected. I was able to write a complicated piece of real software and hundreds of test cases that proved my software would work and be rock solid. I also got to meet a lot of interesting people and learn aspects of culture, communication, and teamwork that I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else. I was able to experience what it’s like to work for a large, publicly traded company, giving me a better understanding about the size of company I might want to work for or run someday.
During my internship, I realized how much I loved being in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, so I transferred to the University of St. Thomas to finish my undergrad. I continued to intern at Unisys the next summer, but moved to the relational database team, a different department within the company that allowed me to experience new people and hone a new skill. During this internship, I was fortunate to be on a team that filed for a patent and learned about the patent process and working with an attorney on a patent filing. I would have never thought I’d get that opportunity as an intern. What was so cool was that the work I did wasn’t meaningless. It mattered.
Working two internships in my field provided me with valuable experience, both from a skill set standpoint and from a decision-making standpoint. Those experiences made it very clear to me that I wanted to work for a smaller company or start my own business, which is what I decided to do and pursue, and how Onsharp was born. It also helped me understand what different people are looking for in a career. When it came time to hire employees at Onsharp, I was able to leverage what I learned by talking with my past teammates and understanding what made them love their jobs. As a small business owner, I needed to be a good leader and empower others to be their best. Without my internships at Unisys, I don’t know that I would have understood many of those intricacies like I did at such an early age.
Internships Make a Difference
Because of what I experienced in my life as an intern, I believe it’s critical that every student find a way to acquire real-world experience in their field while they’re in school. Internships are proving to be more than just an experience – they’re a necessity to being considered for the best career jobs. According to a study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, more than 60% of 2015 graduating seniors had an internship or co-op experience by the time they graduated, and over 50% of 2015 college graduates who held an internship received job offers before they graduated.
I can say for myself that without my internship experiences, I wouldn’t have been prepared to take the leap into entrepreneurship, and I definitely wouldn’t have had any clue about what kind of company or what kind of job I was looking for coming out of school.
Internships at Onsharp
At Onsharp, I’m proud to see how our internship program has evolved over the years. We treat our interns like real employees. We give them real client work so they can ultimately either work for us, or get the knowledge and experience they need to take to the next step in their career path.
If you’re in college and want some real-life experience in the digital marketing or development fields, check out our open positions to see if joining #TeamOnsharp as one of our @OnsharpInterns would be a good fit for you.