Written by Colleen Clarke
Q: I have a lead on an internship in my field of study that I’m sure would be helpful to my eventual career, and may not come my way again, but it pays lower than my usual summer job – and I still need to pay for my education. What should I do?
A: Lucky breaks don’t come along every day: If this is a rare find, it would be prudent of you to seriously consider taking it.
Internship programs are a godsend to students who value gaining experience in their field of study; they’re certainly a better choice than simply taking a summer job just to pay the bills. Ultimately, if you can work in your area of study while attending university or college, you’ll have a leg up on other job candidates after you graduate.
Students traditionally have opted for construction, food and beverage service, driving truck, or work for the government, among other summer jobs, because of the good remuneration. But few of these make you eligible for the engineering, accounting, human resources or marketing positions you may be applying for upon graduation.
It is easy to be enticed by the higher-paying jobs, especially when you owe everybody money. But opportunities to use and hone your skills, build your résumé and network with industry professionals are invaluable, and could carry you in good stead for the rest of your life. An internship is also a good chance to find a mentor in the field who can support and help your cause for future job opportunities.
This is an excellent time to set some priorities for yourself. Recognize that you will be paying off your loans slower than usual and you might have to live a bit more frugally than last year. It’s a small price to pay for bettering yourself with an internship program and preparing yourself for a better paying job as soon as you graduate. Making decisions like this one comes down to values and what is the most important action that is going to move you forward the most at this point in your life.
Ask yourself how quickly you want to be working in your field. The quicker you are employable, the more quickly you can pay off your loans. Internships make you more employable right out of school and they usually involve working for a top 500 company, not an easy feat to achieve while still in school. Sit down with a number cruncher to see if you really can make it through your next year with the salary the program will pay versus your usual summer job.
Find out if there might be a chance you could continue working for the company part-time once school convenes, or perhaps you can find a part-time job elsewhere during the school term to make up for the loss of summer income.
There are global and local internship programs available, some you pay to be involved in, some pay nothing and others pay a nominal stipend usually about $1,000 a month. For global internships go to www.globalexperiences.com/internships; for Canadian placements, go to www.careeredge.ca.