[By Schintelle Harte]

Getting an internship is a great way to invest in your future. For the twenty-something generation of professionals entering the competitive job market, internships, paid or unpaid, have become a critical pipeline for gaining real-world experience.

The following are five major benefits of having an internship:

  1. Practical experience

An opportunity to test-drive your knowledge and skills.

This is the chance for you to apply what you’ve learned throughout your studies and bring it to the real-world. You’ll gain a sense of what you’re good at, what you like or don’t like and what direction you’d like your career to move in.

  1. Employment opportunities

How does a full-time job sound?

Don’t discount your internship as a requirement that needs to be fulfilled to graduate. This might be the time you find your future employer. Being hired on after completing an internship looks great on your resume and shows that you were a valuable asset to the company or organization.

  1. Networking and professional contacts

Sometimes it’s not what you know, but who you know.

An internship gives you the opportunity to expand your professional brand as well as grow your network. Having personal ambassadors who are willing to lend their support allows you to tap into the hidden job market. This can make all the difference when it comes to finding employment.

  1. Strengthen your CV

Make sure your CV stands out from the rest.

Having an internship can help give you a competitive edge when you’re searching for a job. It gives you a story to tell beyond having spent your college or university life studying.

  1. Build your portfolio

Show employers what skills you have to offer  

Your portfolio is a work in progress and needs to be kept current. Having a tangible body of work that showcases school projects or work in the field is a major plus and will help set you apart from other applicants.

(Photo by CCPixs via Flickr)