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Why (Almost) Everything You Know About Internships Is a Lie

Written by Angela Finding

You’ve seen internships as they’ve been portrayed in movies and TV shows, and maybe you’ve had a friend or two that have actually gone through the process of an internship. In any case, you likely have an image in your head of what an internship looks like, and what you’ll experience when you finally pursue one.

Here’s the thing: it’s probably wrong. That isn’t to say that internships are always the opposite of what you think they are, but the stereotypical vision of an internship is, in most cases, shockingly inaccurate.

The Errand Boy/Girl Myth

One lasting stereotype is that all interns are errand boys/girls, fetching coffee and stapling papers. These days, that’s usually not the case. There are always some businesses trying to milk the system for free and cheap low-level labor, but the majority of businesses recognize the true value of interns, and will try to give you an educational or developmental experience.

College Credit and Overall Purpose

You may also have misconceptions about how college credit works for internships. Most colleges and universities offer at least some credit for internships, but they must fulfill certain criteria—and those criteria change depending on what school you’re attending. Furthermore, internships are valuable beyond their ability to get you college credit. As 65 percent of college students graduate with some internship or co-op experience, it’s becoming increasingly necessary to have on your resume.

Your job as an intern isn’t to run out the clock. It’s to learn about a designated work environment, gain meaningful experience, and hopefully make contacts who can support you in your future career—even if you don’t end up working for that company.

The Diverse Reality

The biggest reason almost everything you think you know about internships is wrong is because every internship is different. There’s no single, identifiable internship experience, just as there’s no single description that fits every college experience. Where you go, who you work with, how long you work for, and the work you put into it will all have a massive impact on your eventual takeaways. So before you get too excited about internships, or roll your eyes at the idea of taking one, remember that internships can help you with almost any goal—as long as you go in with the right mindset.

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