Beaches, bathing suits, and beautiful weather. That’s how most teenagers are hoping to spend their summer vacations.
But for those who have just graduated high school, the real world is quickly approaching. In fact, as a college planner, I see many students faced with their first professional decision this summer: Whether to get a job or internship.
Either option will provide great learning opportunities, but making the decision will come down to a few factors: Money, skills and goals. One big question to ask yourself is if you need to make money. If so, a job may be the way to go. While certain internships are paid, many are not. Even if you find a paid internship, it may not offer the same amount of money a job would. So if you need to start making (and saving!) money for college in the fall, explore the job opportunities that are available.
That brings me to my second point: Skills. If you decide that a job is the best choice for you, it would be ideal to find one in your chosen career field. While most jobs will teach you responsibility, time management and communication skills (and those are all very valuable), if you can land a job that allows you to discover and develop skills within an area that interests you, you will be that much further ahead. Getting exposure to a field, no matter how low on the totem pole your job is, will help you to decide if it’s a career path you want to continue pursuing. If it’s not, at this stage of the game, you still have plenty of time to explore other options.
It is oftentimes easier to find an internship in your chosen field. However, some internships are often considered watered-down versions of the actual jobs offered at a particular company or in a particular field. My advice is to make the most of your experience. If your responsibilities include making copies and coffee, make sure you also come in early and stay late to shadow employees or ask questions.
Last but not least: Goals. Now’s the time to figure out what yours are. You don’t have to map out the next 50 years, but you should have an idea of what you’d like to see happen in the next five. If you’re still trying to choose between a job and an internship, ask yourself which one is more likely to get you closer to achieving your goals. It’s like a puzzle: Ask yourself which puzzle piece (job or internship) will help the big picture to come together.
One other important factor to note relates to students who are already in college but faced with this decision. Those students need to consider college credits. Though many internships require that you work for free, they can offer college credits. If you’re in need of credit hours, and money isn’t a major priority, an internship may be your best option.
With that being said… Cheers to the summer! (And cheers to making your first professional decision).