5 reasons to do an internship (and 3 reasons not to)

In the world of software development, it is generally accepted that there is no shortage of jobs. With that knowledge in mind, when the topic of doing an internship is brought up, many prospective software developers deem it a waste of time. While it is certainly not the best path for everyone, there are many benefits to consider before passing up such an opportunity.

Typically, internships are done between years of university or college. Lots of companies also offer summer internships, though it may not be enough time to get the full experience. Internship positions also generally don’t pay as well as their full-time counterpart.

Compiled below are some of the key advantages (and disadvantages) to consider when deciding whether or not to pursue an internship position.

Advantages of doing an internship

1. Gain confidence

Writing assignments for your classes in school helps you learn the basics and gives you a strong foundation to build from. However, it typically does not prepare you for writing code all day, Monday to Friday. Within a few weeks at my internship, I had written more code than I had all year at school. As an intern you get plenty of experience actually writing code and building projects. By the end of your time there, you really feel like you actually know what you’re doing. It’s not just theoretical concepts anymore, you understand how to apply them and what the job is really about. Starting a new job can be quite stressful, worrying if you’re really capable of doing the work is very common. Interning eliminates these worries completely.

2. Stepping stone to your dream job

Perhaps there’s a company you would really like to work for, but getting in seems unlikely after graduating. Typically getting an internship at a top tier company during school is easier than applying there for a full-time position after graduating. If you are able to get an internship, most companies will offer their interns a full-time position after they graduate. The reasoning behind this, is that they already spent several months training you to learn their workflow. As long as you don’t burn the place down during your time there, it’s highly likely they’ll ask you to come back when you’re done school.

3. Beef up your resume

As a new grad, you’ll find a plethora of job opportunities. You’ll be competing with your peers to get the best jobs, and although you’ll surely be able to get a job, you might not be able to get the job. This is where having an internship on your resume comes in handy. Most employers will check that you had decent grades in your classes, but what they really want to know is if you can do the job. Unlike most of your peers who will have difficulty proving they can do the work required of them, the internship is your proof that you can get the work done. Not only that, but you can ask your internship employers if you can use them as a reference. Most likely, they’ll be glad to tell a prospective employer that you’re a great person and a competent employee.

4. Reduced stress

As an intern you’re not expected to really know what you’re doing yet. The main reason you are there is to learn, and they want you to ask questions. Working in a full-time position comes with greater expectations, asking too many questions might reflect poorly on your abilities. Usually you’ll be given somewhat isolated work, such that even if you make a mistake you don’t need to worry about bringing the whole system down. Making mistakes and learning from them is part of being an intern. Through the internship, you can learn everything you need to prepare you for your eventual full-time career.

5. Trial period

Early on you might be desperate to just get any job you can find. However, after completing your internship you’ll find that you’re a hot commodity. There is no shortage of companies looking to hire new grads, and there’s very few new grads that actually have relevant work experience. As a result, you may find some compelling job opportunities at various companies, excluding the place you interned at. While it can be difficult and is sometimes frowned upon to quit a job after a short period of time, your internship employer knows you’ll only be there for a set period of time. As well, they may be happy to hire you on full-time, but they completely understand that you might find a job elsewhere. Of course you can always choose to stay with the company you interned at, but you don’t have to feel obligated to stay.

Disadvantages of doing an internship

1. Delayed graduation

Unless you’re doing a summer internship, you will be graduating a year later than your peers. Depending on how you value your time, this could be an important factor to consider when making your decision. Also, you’ll be separated from your friends and colleagues at school, since they will go on to graduate while you are interning. When you come back, aside from anyone else who did an internship, all of your friends will be gone. For many people, school is as much of a social experience as it is a learning experience. Giving up your last year with all of your buddies may not be something you feel comfortable doing.

2. Low salary

While being employed as an intern has a low amount of stress, and you don’t need to worry about making mistakes, it comes at a cost. Since your responsibilities do not match that of a full-time developer, your pay does not either. Perhaps you have student loans you want to pay off, or maybe you want to buy a house. If earning a decent pay cheque as soon as possible is critical to you, skipping the internship is in your best interest.

3. Deception

If you’re applying to any well known companies for an internship like Google or Facebook, this will not be an issue. However, most people end up interning at a small local company. The reputation of these companies can be quite uncertain, and you have to be careful that you don’t get tricked or taken advantage of. Usually when applying for jobs or internships you send out lots of applications to a variety of companies. Getting a positive response in a sea of uncertainty can feel great, but they may just be trying to get you to do some cheap data entry or other mundane job. They won’t teach you what you really want to learn and you’ll end up wasting your time. Most schools will pass on opportunities they hear about to their students, but even these might not be safe.

Should you do an internship?

Ultimately your decision should be based on your career plan. If you feel confident that you do not need the extra experience an internship offers and you know where you want to be, then it may not be worth your time. However, if you’re uncertain where you want to work or are concerned you will have trouble getting the job you want after graduating, I highly recommend doing an internship.

My experience

Personally, I did a sixteen month internship between my third and fourth year of university. I found it to be incredibly beneficial in solidifying my knowledge and preparing me for the work environment. During my last year at university I started applying for jobs and was able to get plenty of interviews (including at Facebook and Amazon), primarily because of the internship experience I had on my resume.

I found all of my potential internship opportunities through Western University’s Science Internship Program. If you’re still in school and are considering doing an internship or are unsure about your career path, your school most likely has a similar program or at least some form of career counseling that I recommend you take advantage of.

Pierce Zaifman

Android app developer. Hates wasting time and takes satisfaction in improving efficiency in all aspects of life. Also enjoys helping people solve their problems.

London, Ontario, Canada

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