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I am a second year student and I'd like to ask about internships. I'm not entirely sure yet what sub-branch of my field I want to pursue later and what I would like is to have as many internships as possible while I am a student, to get a feel for how different companies work.

I've already been a paid intern at a company the previous summer. For the following summer I have the chance to return to this company (as a full-time employee), but I might also get the chance to become an intern at a few others.

My question is, how would employers' perception of me be affected if I end up jumping from company to company (as a student)? Is it a good idea for me to get experience in a variety of fields? How much should I be worried about being perceived as someone who cannot commit for longer periods of time?

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5 Answers 5

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I'm not entirely sure yet what sub-branch of my field I want to pursue later and what I would like is to have as many internships as possible while I am a student, to get a feel for how different companies work.

This is a great reason to do internships at different companies. You should most definitely do experiences in different fields - at nearly no other time in your career can you have the flexibility you can have during internships.

Companies have a shared interest with you. They want to hire people who are competent at jobs they like doing. You want to do jobs you like doing (and get paid :).

My question is, how would employers' perception of me be affected if I end up jumping from company to company (as a student)? Is it a good idea for me to get experience in a variety of fields? How much should I be worried about being perceived as someone who cannot commit for longer periods of time?

As an student, it's expected you will take internships. It's also well known by companies these are temporary employments. There is no negative perception in having multiple internships from different companies because of this.

Some thoughts regarding internships:

  • Employers/interviewers expect students (especially in technical fields, like engineering/software) to do internships
  • If you intern with the same company more than once, there often is an implied "I want to work here after I graduate" thought - why would you do this again if you didn't want to work there after you graduate?
  • People are unlikely to ask details as to why you chose different internships
  • More internship experience lets you have a much richer set of experiences to talk about in interviews because it helps you know what you are looking for (or want to avoid) in jobs and companies
  • Doing the same internship twice in a row is not the best idea unless you are sure you want to do that job after graduation (or cannot find something else...) because you never again will have the flexibility to try out different jobs the way you can with internships**

You are by far worrying about something which is not worth worrying about. Take internships you think you would enjoy or find professionally fulfilling and don't worry about how they appear on your resume.

**by this I mean effectively doing the same internship with the same group and very similar work

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That all depends on whether you plan on trying to get hired on full time after you graduate to one of the companies you have interned with. It might be more difficult to convince a company that you have rejected a second internship with in the past to hire you back.

That said, internships are the perfect place to shop around in your field. That's one of the main reasons you take internships in the first place, to see if the work suites you before making a commitment to work there as a full-time employee.

Remember, when potential employers look at your resume, they won't know the situation behind each and every internship. And if they do ask why you interned at so many different companies, then tell them the truth. You wanted to explore your field. It's always beneficial to them to know you already understand what's out there and still chose to apply to their company.

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As a student looking for internships, I don't see how it can be anything other than a positive thing to have varied relevant professional experiences. As part of my undergraduate education, we were required to do 4 quarters (10 weeks each for a total of ~40 weeks) of co-operative education. In the engineering fields, the common duration was two 20 week blocks, but some people did variations as well as going above and beyond. Most people went to multiple companies, and those who did return to the same company often went to other locations, divisions, or teams.

If you don't know exactly what you want to do, I would encourage you to try new experiences. As a student, you'll figure out what industry you like best (or don't like best). You'll also learn about different companies and cultures, which can help find a best-fit job for you after graduation. As a potential employer, I'd encourage you to have other experiences. I want to hire the best fit for my company and get an employee that wants to come work for me - I might be sure of the employee, but if the employee isn't sure of me, there's always a lingering doubt as to how long he'll stay around or if we can mutually provide benefits.

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Internships are part of your eduction. There is a very definite value in being exposed to different environments and different ways of doing things. At this stage in your career this is a Good Thing (tm).

You may want to stay in the same job if you are already working at Google/Apple/Microsoft/etc and you really want to have a full time offer when you are done with school.

But don't worry about anyone holding your internships against you. If they do, you don't want to with them anyway.

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There are two completely different issues stated in here.

  1. Looking to figure out which sub-branch of your field you want to pursue later
  2. and get a feel for how different companies work.

It's very likely that several companies within a field may be very similar as far as "how they work." Unless you have hear specifically from others that they subscribe to a different methodology (i.e. - Google and game rooms, free food) you may not get too much out of jumping ship multiple times.

Addressing getting experience in different sub-branches is a different issue. Many companies address this issue with "rotational programs" within the company. This lets you get a feel for the different type of work associated with each "branch", i.e. - systems integrations vs. lab technician vs. project manager vs. code writer.

Personally, I would move around only as much as to satisfy both of these together.

Moving around too much could "look funny" but then again, when it comes down to it, employers over look a lot - if an employee is producing results that make them money.

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