Now that my internship is over, I can honestly say it was a huge learning experience. Not only did I learn new skills that are applicable in school (i.e. new programming languages and hands on use with different software) but I also learned what I’m looking for in a job: location, hours, flexibility, ability to move up in the company, ability to change focuses or try a new job. As students, I feel like we overlook these things because we just want a job, but they are really important considerations when choosing where to start a career. Because of this internship, I now know what I do and do not want in my future employer.
I had an internship last year in Miami, Florida with GE Aviation. Comparing that internship experience with my experience with Northrop in Redondo Beach, California this year, there are many similarities and some stark differences between the two. Firstly, both companies are very large and encompass different sectors with thousands of employees in each sector. Because the companies are so large, there is a lot of room to grow within the company and move into different kinds of jobs. Another similarity is the intern programs that both provide. Both programs allow interns to skype into briefings about different sectors within the company, career advice from executives, and information about rotational programs for new hires (all of these sessions are on the intern’s own time, not company time). As far as differences go, I can’t speak for all of GE’s facilities, but the facility that I was at last year was a single building, while Northrop’s facility at Space Park is comprised of many buildings set up in a college campus like setting. The setup is one of my favorite things about this location.
I can definitely say that this internship has helped me grow more professionally and plan for what I want once I graduate. I was fortunate enough to be placed in the mix of full time employees and always got to listen in on advice that they would want to know when they were my age. For instance, I set up a 401K and started putting money into it because they explained how much money it would make by the time I needed to retire. They also explained pension plans, competitive salaries, competitive offers, and stock options. It was so nice to be able to understand and plan for my future early.
One of the biggest challenges this internship has brought me is learning that I want to switch gears into a field that is a mix of business and technical aspects. Because I was able to get hands on experience with what I thought I wanted to do, I realized that I needed to switch gears. I’m really thankful that I was able to have this realization now rather than later so I can focus my classes and my goals coming up.
Overall I would recommend internships to everyone, not only because of the hands on experience gained, but the long term career knowledge that is learned through working full time temporarily. I had a great learning experience this summer and I’m really thankful for the opportunity to learn as much as I did!