Getting an internship is in many ways like adding dressing to your salad. Sure, the salad might still be edible without it, but some dressing would enhance the taste by a lot. Besides, many people would prefer to have a salad with dressing, rather than without. In the same way, many employers show a strong preference for hiring someone who has had some relevant experience over someone who has not. (A 2015 survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers showed that 91.2% employers indicated a preference for hiring someone who has previous work experience.)
Interestingly, getting an internship is not something that many doctoral students in the humanities consider. While in the past the majority of students pursuing a doctoral degree in the humanities chose to pursue a career in academia, in recent times, a changing work culture has seen more and more students venturing into careers outside of the academe. Employers have become increasingly interested in hiring humanities graduates, because they have come to realize that students pursuing a doctorate in the humanities have highly developed skills in thinking innovatively, initiating complex problem solving, and effectively communicating, all of which are extremely valuable to any forward-thinking employer.
Being in graduate school allows for the flexibility to seek opportunities to gain additional experience and to shape your own career narrative. However, as doctoral students, we often find that we align our own career narrative with the expectations and trajectory of the milieu we are in, and unfortunately we often pass-up on the chance to think outside the box and expand our knowledge and expertise.
Seeking an internship while you are still in graduate school can prove to be an extremely smart move for your career. In addition to providing you with the opportunity for expanding your knowledge, it also gives you the chance to gain an insider perspective of the working environment in a particular industry. Moreover, an experience beyond your own research and teaching responsibilities can be a great way to challenge yourself intellectually and acquire some new skills that will likely make you a more competitive job candidate.
The advantages of engaging in some form of experiential learning, like an internship, go well beyond creating a more dynamic profile for yourself. It might give you a fresh perspective to see how your own research has a direct and practical impact on real-life problems; or it might give you a new insight on how you can apply your skills to different work settings. Overall it is sure to be a rewarding experience that will contribute positively toward your personal and professional growth.
Is there any reason to try to get an internship if you envision a future in academia for yourself? Yes! There are an array of reasons why it would be beneficial for you to get an internship even if you are set on the academic path. Most institutions of higher education want to hire individuals who have demonstrated potential for collaborative and interdisciplinary work. Having an internship shows that you are motivated, and not afraid to push the boundaries of what is standard, have the capacity for creative, independent thought and are willing to take on new challenges. The right kind of experiences will likely make you a better hire than someone who has only traveled the beaten path. Additionally, it might prove to be very useful for you to have some practical experience being out of your comfort zone, helping you to develop strategies to navigate the professional world.
There are plenty of reasons for pushing the boundaries of teaching and research as a humanities graduate student. Take care to consciously plan the time to incorporate an internship while you are still in graduate school. Stay tuned for the November edition of this blog for tips on how to find an internship!