There is more to Professional Experience than Internships

“The only source of knowledge is experience” – Albert Einstein

Even if you know the molecular geometry of glucose, the full lineage of British rulers, or the proof for the Central Limit Theorem, you have limited professional knowledge until you gain experience.  So, how do you gain experience? The common answer to this is internships, but there are several reasons why an internship may not be your only option.

What if you are on the fence about your area of interest and you do not want to spend a whole summer in an internship that you may not enjoy?

What if you are just not a morning person and you cannot even fathom the idea of working a 9-5 internship for even a few months?  What if internships are uncommon in your field? In these situations, and in many others, you may be stuck wondering what to do to gain that competitive experience you need in the professional world.

Depending on your major, interests, habits, and career aspirations, a traditional internship might not be your first step to getting the experience you want, and need.  Other experiences allow you to cultivate your knowledge without the issues you may have with internships.

On Campus Internships:

For some people, commuting to an office may be what stands between them and an internship.  Whether it be a lack of proper transportation, a lack of time to travel, or just a lack of motivation to sit in rush hour traffic on a Friday afternoon.

If you want the internship ambiance without having to leave campus, an on-campus internship is the involvement you need.  There are over twenty offerings on campus in a variety of industries.  These positions allow students to attain their hands-on experience without leaving the comfortable campus environment.  Each opportunity allows students to have a set schedule that works around their classes and other campus affiliations.  For more information on on-campus internships, click here.


For those looking to branch into the STEM fields, or for students interested in going on to graduate school, the best experience may be to pursue a research project.  The University of Connecticut has a wide range of research opportunities for students.  Every faculty member at the university is required to complete research during his or her time at UConn. The Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) is also another resource that connects students with mentors or faculty members who can facilitate research.  OUR also provides funding assistance for students through a range of programs.  For more information on the research resources provided for students, click here.

Job Shadow:

Another way to gain experience that does not require a semester or summer long commitment is to shadow a professional in your field.  Job shadowing is a great way to learn exactly what the day in the life of being a future *insert job title* is like.  This opportunity gives you the chance to ask questions, network, and experience the daily tasks that you may be doing in the future.

To job shadow a professional, simply reach out to some potential mentors in your industry via LinkedIn, email, or via telephone.  For more information on job shadowing, click here.

Student Employment:

The best place to start gaining experience as an underclassman may be in a student employment position.  This could be at an on-campus position via the UConn job board, or an off-campus job via HuskyCareerLink, Indeed, or another job search agency.  For students who have never held a job before, a part-time job allows you to master some key soft skills that will be helpful in the future.  These include punctuality, time management, organization, and communication skills.

A part-time job may lack the glamour and desirability that an internship provides, but it is a great stepping-stone into the professional world.


For students with a fluctuating schedule, a traditional internship may not be the best fit.  If you need experience that allows you to vary your hours week to week or is not a heavy time-commitment, volunteering may be right for you.  Some volunteer opportunities include; hospitals for allied health related fields, veterinary clinics, farms, or animal shelter for animal science majors, or government agencies for political science and human rights majors.  If you are unsure where to volunteer in order to gain experience in your field, check out Volunteer Match for some ideas.
As you can see, numerous opportunities to gain experience do not include holding an internship.  If you are still unsure of how to get your foot in the metaphorical professional-door, stop by the Center for Career Development in Wilbur Cross 202 and talk to a career counselor about your options.

By Taylor Patterson
Taylor Patterson Experiential Learning Intern