Lacey Tucker ’20 (right) works on a project with fellow engineering major Rylee Runyon ’20.
One of the most recommended things to do in college is to find an internship, ideally off campus. Whether you do it during the school year or during summer break, an internship is the perfect opportunity to get a small taste of the real world without having to fully commit to it and to learn lessons that you wouldn’t be able to learn in a classroom setting. Here are five things I learned during my short time “adulting” this summer as a software engineering intern for In-Depth Engineering:
Internships show you what working in a professional setting is like.
Different work spaces, occupations and companies will have different standards for wardrobe and practices but in general, diving into the workforce with an internship can show you exactly what you can expect when you go in after graduation. You’ll get to see what kind of atmosphere you’ll be working in, if it will be more hands-on or more desk work, and what you should expect to dress like. It’s one thing to read about what your desired occupation is like, but it’s a completely different thing to actually experience it, and if you ask me, it’s definitely worth it!
Presentations don’t go away after graduation.
During my internship, I worked on one specific project and on my last day, I actually had to update the other people working on the project (and the company’s CEO) on all the work I did. To my surprise, I had to create and give a full presentation on everything I learned, and what the next steps for the project should be. If you had told me a few years ago that I would keep having to give Powerpoint presentations after college, I definitely wouldn’t have believed you, but based on my experience and the word of my co-workers, it’s actually a very common practice.
When you interact with co-workers, you’re having more fun, can build your network and learn about the company.
If you just barricade yourself in a corner and don’t talk to anyone the whole time, you miss out on valuable social experiences the internship can offer. Not only can talking to other employees help you make new friends, it can also help you grow your network of professional contacts for future job opportunities — and give you a chance to get to know the company culture through individual experiences.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice.
We hear this a lot from our professors and sometimes we take it for granted, but it really is true. People would rather have you ask for help if you’re struggling with something than have you push through and end up doing it wrong. It helps avoid adding extra time and labor to a project if you just ask for help when you realize you need it right away. Plus, a lot of experienced people are in their jobs precisely because they love what they do, so when you ask them for help, they get an opportunity to talk about what they love! And you’ll learn something.
Internships can help you decide what you want to do in life — or what you don’t want to do.
Since an internship is a short-term experience in the workforce, it’s the perfect opportunity to test out whether or not you like the career you’re looking into. Sometimes people go into an internship and find their passion because they realize they genuinely love what they’re exploring. Sometimes, however, people discover that they don’t actually enjoy the job, and they realize that maybe they want to go a different direction for their career. Either way, they learned something valuable that can help them find what they want to do in life. It’s completely okay if you have an internship and discover that you don’t like what you’re doing. The point is that you put yourself out there and jumped right into the real world — and you learned some valuable lessons. I know I did!
Did you know that nearly 80% of Sweet Briar students complete an internship? Among engineering majors, that number is 100%. Learn more about internships at sbc.edu/career-services.
We’re all about experiences at Sweet Briar — from internships to research to study abroad. The best part: Our Grants for Engaged Learning provide up to $2,000 per student in funding!
Lacey Tucker is a senior from Swansboro, N.C. She is a student admissions ambassador, an engineering major and a math minor. She also is a member of the tennis and soccer teams at Sweet Briar.