Why looking for internship outside your field can be helpful

We’ve all heard the same advice over and over again; when you’re looking for internship, look for ones that are related to your major, or that already cater to your knowledge and skills. The standard goal is to build and grow what you already have academically. But is that really the best way to succeed?

While it’s true that internships in your field can give you valuable workplace experience and help you develop your existing skill set for your career future, an internship outside of your scope of study might be just as beneficial in some cases—especially if it helps you explore other fields or gain valuable skills that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

In this article, we’ll be listing several reasons why looking for an internship outside your scope of study can be helpful, and might be one of the most helpful things to do while still in your college career.

Why looking for an internship outside your scope of study can be helpful

1. It can help you discover and develop skills that are applicable in any field

When you’re looking for an internship in a field different from one you’re used to, your responsibilities will obviously be very different from what you’ve done in the past. So you won’t be able to rely on the same skills or experience that have worked for you in previous internships. This encourages you to be both quick on your feet and to be willing to adapt to your new professional environment.

There are many skills that can help people succeed in any industry, but few of these are taught at school: networking, time management, project management and problem solving are just some of the more obvious ones that come to mind.

But there are also less obvious qualities that someone who wants to work outside their field needs as well: communication, outreach, and teamwork. People who want careers in fields they don’t study often need these “soft” skills more than others because they don’t have the “hard” skills or same level of experience with the products or services related to their roles yet. They need these skills to enable them to be able to learn on the job more efficiently. Communication, outreach, and teamwork are also vital if you need to ask for help or be more proactive in learning new and foreign skills.

2. It can help you get experience that you can use to apply for jobs actually in your major

An internship outside of your field of study can help you build up the skills and experiences you need to start up and succeed in a job search. Here are some ways that might happen:

  • If you’re in an environment where it’s acceptable or encouraged to share resources, an internship offers a great opportunity to network with people who may be able to help you later on, irrespective of industry.
  • Working as a receptionist or even doing menial tasks at a company is often viewed as low-value work by employers (many college students are overqualified for those positions, but lack the experience/expertise to apply to more specialized roles). But if you do this kind of work well, it can demonstrate how capable and hardworking you are, as well as how you’re capable of basic administrative duties—and these are factors that are considered when applying for more preferred jobs later on.
  • Asking questions about what makes someone successful in their industry helps open up opportunities for growth and personal development, even if it’s not related to your own field.
  • Having any work experience is better than no work experience at all! This will give potential employers more confidence in your professional capabilities, as work experience is generally more reliable than just classroom learning. Employers want to make sure you can thrive beyond an academic setting!

3. It will help you gain confidence

Really, working in an unfamiliar field can be a real confidence booster.

As you go through life, there are a million different ways that your confidence can be affected. Regardless of whether it’s getting a bad grade in school or having someone reject your idea at work, these experiences can leave lasting scars on how you view yourself and the way you measure success. But learning how to deal with these situations and move past them is an important part of growing up—and it all starts with being confident!

So what does this have to do with internships? Interning in something that’s completely unrelated to your degree can be a way to prove to yourself what you’re capable of, boosting your overall sense of self-worth and contributing to your first steps into adulthood. It also helps you come to the realization that you’ll have to deal with many scenarios in life that you can’t prepare for,  or “study” for in advance.

4. It can help you avoid burnout and prevent senioritis

As you get closer to graduation, it’s important to remember that you still have to live, and enjoy fun experiences in your youth. You need time off from school and work, or else burnout will set in.

Interning in a separate field can also help you avoid “senioritis.” If a student is only focused on study and working full-time during their penultimate or final year, there’s a risk that they’ll stop caring about the classes they’re taking and just want them done with so they can focus on their career search. This is why internships outside of your field of study can be helpful: they allow students to experience new challenges and learn less familiar skills as well as prevent them from getting bored with their current coursework by giving them something new to tackle each day.

5. Gaining experience outside of your major could be beneficial for narrowing down career choices, and confirming that you’re actually interested in your current field

Having an internship that’s not directly related to your major can be very helpful in the long run, even if it doesn’t seem like it.

For example, you might be a biology major but want to work in marketing. While some companies won’t give you an internship based on your lack of knowledge of their industry, having an unrelated internship will show them that you can learn quickly and adapt to new situations. You could be hired as a marketing assistant or consultant right out of college and then build up your skills through experience over time until you’re ready for higher positions.

This is also true if you’re pursuing a career in one field but want to switch fields part way through school—for example, if you start out studying psychology and decide after two years that what really interests you is business administration instead, having done an unrelated internship while still pursuing your original plan will help prove to potential employers that you can adapt when they look at your resume later on down the line! Also, if you have a previous internship to back up your experiences when you change career fields later on, it’ll prove to your potential employer that your career switch wasn’t entirely random, and deter them from thinking that you’re an unreliable employee.

Furthermore, the most important reason is that out-of-the-scope internships allow you to take your interests for a trial run. Although you may be certain that you want to study and then ultimately work in a certain niche like biology or business administration, you might not feel the same way once you actually engage with these subjects in the workplace. To demonstrate, I personally was and still am extremely intrigued by government relations and political science, having spent almost my entire academic career studying just those subjects.

I’ve also done quite a few internships related to those fields and enjoyed them, but it was when I started diversifying my experiences and interning outside of the scope of my studies, that I realized I was much more interested in working in other sectors like marketing and business development. My passion for politics and social impact never went away, but I realized it was more suited for an academic research context than for an actual career.

Conclusion

We hope this article has given you some ideas on why it’s a good idea to find an internship outside of your major! We know it can be challenging or not seem worthwhile at first, but with a little bit of patience and perseverance, you’ll soon find yourself with a great opportunity to grow as an individual and develop skills that will benefit any industry.

Remember, the key to success depends on your skillset and how transferable those skills are to the industry that you ultimately want to end up in!

About Contributor

Gloria Tsang is a current Marketing and Communications intern at Villa Finder, a travel start-up based in Singapore.  She’s currently pursuing a double major Bachelor’s in social sciences and media industries / business at New York University Shanghai. In her free time, Gloria enjoys sharing her own experiences as a young professional as well as mentoring other youth in her communities.

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