Lately, I published a post about volunteering and the sweet Chloe from the blog Litandbits left a comment about the fact that having a great volunteering experience offers more on your resume than most internships. That made me think. What is the problem with most internships? Why does volunteering bring something to your resume (and to your life) an internship may not provide you with? Then, it appeared to me: internships come with a dilemma. That is this dilemma we are going to study today in order to make sure you make the right decision for YOU and for YOUR career. Then, we will talk about what volunteering can add to your internship.
First, let’s discuss for a short moment the importance of internships. Unfortunately, at least in France, a lot of degrees do not require you to have internships. However, I really think they should because:
- an internship helps you see whether or not you are on the right career path.
- an internship looks great on your resume as most companies want people to have “experience”.
- an internship helps you network.
These three things may seem a little useless or “not worth the effort” at first, buy you will rather soon be out of school, and you will change your mind. Internships are your first foot in the world of grown-up jobs, and here is your dilemma.
The problem with finding the right internship: a dilemma.
When you are looking for an internship, hardships begin. What do you want? You actually want two things:
- A company, the name of which will look great on your resume.
- Real experience.
♡ Making coffee in a big firm.
Let me tell you that, usually, things get a little more complicated, and you need to make a choice between your two goals. If you choose to work for a big company, you will definitely have the “wow effect” on your resume. However, you will probably make coffee for the rest of your internship because the files tackled by that company are far too important to be seen by an intern.
♡ Learning new skills in a modest firm.
On the contrary, if you really want to gain experience in the field of your choice, you will need to look for a more “modest” firm. “Modest” does not mean “bad”, it simply means that your future employer may not even know that this particular firm exists. If you make that choice, the “wow effect” is likely to disappear, but you will have gained that experience, and you will actually know if that job is right for you… or not.
That is all a matter of choice. Most degrees actually ask for two internships. My advice would be to look for one internship in a big firm, and to do the other in a more modest one. Thus, you will not have to choose between the “wow effect” and the actual experience you need.
The questions you should ask yourself in order to choose well.
There are of course degrees that do not require you, or even offer you, the opportunity to have two internships. In that situation, there are several questions you can ask yourself in order to make the best choice.
Where do I want to work later?
If the answer is a “in the countryside”, you probably do not need to choose an internship at the British Museum.
What does “networking” mean to ME?
As you probably know, I truly think networking is important in a career. However, you need to define that word for YOU, and there is no “right” or “wrong” answer. If you see “networking” as “meeting influent people”, maybe choose the big firm. If, on the contrary, “networking” means “creating meaningful relationships in my career”, maybe choose the more modest firm.
Am I okay with making coffee?
It is that simple, but worth asking. Depending on your dream job, chances are that you will actually have to make coffee at some point. However, if it is really not your cup of tea (no pun intended lol), just don’t go for the big firm!
Am I okay with stress?
Last but not least, big firms usually come with a lot of stress, even if you are just an intern who does almost nothing related to the filed of activity of that firm. Even just seeing other people being stressed out may be stressing for you. Just know whether or not you are okay with that and be honest with yourself. If you are not likely to feel stressed and are okay with coffee, why not choosing the big firm?
I can give you keys but I can’t open doors for you. Be honest with yourself, and the answer will come naturally. ♡
An alternative to that choice.
I would not be me if I did not mention… volunteering, right? You must feel bored of me repeating that over and over but I am serious: that is a game-changer!
In France, internships are paid only if they exceed two months. Thus, you are not necessarily paid that much. When you volunteer, you are not paid BUT you actually get gifts most of the time (and so much more on a non-material level).
I won’t bore you with details about volunteering because I have already talked about it at least 100 times. If you want to learn more about volunteering, I highly recommend these two posts:
- 5 Reasons Why You Should Volunteer As a Student.
- My Experience Working For an NGO & Why You Should Do It As Well.
What I mean by “an alternative choice” is that, of course, you need to take the internship that is compulsory for your degree BUT you can add a volunteering experience on top of that. I know, you would rather party but volunteering can be so much fun too! You can do it for a cause you particularly care about, animal-protection for instance.
The great thing with volunteering, is that you do not need to choose!
Let me explain: you can work for a big (enormous?) NGO and learn valuable skills at the same time! I know that the UN accepts volunteers in many fields and from all over the world. Bonus point? You can do it FROM HOME, which means money is not a problem anymore! Who does not want to have “UN” on their resume? NGOs usually trust you have access to responsibilities. Of course, you do no have access to money, but are you paid much in internships anyway?
I hope that post helped you see that there is always an alternative solution to your problems and dilemma. Moreover, I hope it reminded you, even briefly, that there is nothing wrong with choosing a “modest” firm or with wanting a calm, simple life in the countryside. We all feel like we need to “hustle, hustle, hustle” all the time, but we just need to be happy and fulfilled.