I’m a graduate of Northeastern University, which is known for their coop program. I can tell you first hand that this experience was especially helpful for me because I was able to get an idea of what positions interested me and which did not when I was ready for full time employment. If I didn’t take advantage of the internship programs, I would have never have had the insight of working in different industries and having different job responsibilities before graduating. When I was ready to graduate, I knew what would keep me challenged and interested in a full time role because I had a variety of experience throughout my college years, not to mention I had already built up a personal network for myself which never would have been possible working a part time job vs. an internship.
Right now in the competitive software world, internships and co-ops are becoming the norm. Whether these positions are paid or not, this experience has become standard not only for resume building but building your network as well. At Lynx, with our focus in the software industry, we have been seeing many candidates graduating from college with at least 2 internships, and hiring managers are expecting to see this on resumes of recent CS grads. Having an internship or co-op gives you real world skills, along with a huge competitive advantage over other, less qualified, candidates.
Many schools now offer some of type of guidance in helping undergrad students find and apply for internships. There are a variety of internship positions offered by small or large companies. With more and more students going to college and the working world becoming more competitive, I feel the decision is simple: Apply for internships early on in your college career and it will not only strengthen your skills but it will help you figure out what you want to do!