There’s a ton of controversy regarding whether internships lead to job offers, or if they are merely unpaid labor. That question has no easy answers applicable to everyone in an internship program or considering undertaking an internship. So, is an internship useful? It can be. Here are a few situations where securing a new internship could prove invaluable to your professional advancement:

1. You’re in college (or graduate school) – Yes, many internships are unpaid. Once you get over the (admittedly annoying) fact that you probably won’t be compensated for your work, you should realize that this is an excellent way to develop contacts in your industry, learn how your field operates, and potentially secure a high-status job down the line.

2. You’re looking to change careers – If you’re looking to change your field, even though many skills are transferrable, there’s still a significant barrier to entry if you have no direct experience. Internships can equalize this problem by helping job candidates quickly develop experience in a new career path.

3. You’ve underperformed in your career – If you’ve been fired or have struggled along in mediocrity, choosing to take on an internship can be a way to propel yourself forward and give yourself a second chance. You may not be compensated, but by learning from your previous mistakes, you can overperform, get noticed, and move your career forward.

Of course, staying at an internship might not always be a good idea. Here are a few situations where it might be time to move on from your internship:

1. You’re doing grunt work only. If your duties at an internship are only to fetch coffee or, like a friend of ours, having to lug Helen Hunt’s unwanted clothes to Beacon’s Closet, then you might want to bail.

2. You’re not making valuable contacts. If you’re not being introduced to influential individuals in your field, and your co-workers are not opening up to you, inviting you to social events and giving you more responsibility, they probably don’t view you very highly. It might be time to move on.

3. You have job offers. If your service at an internship has led to enough experience and contacts to secure paid employment, don’t feel obligated to your internship – move on!

So, are internships useful? They might be an excellent way to hack your career: just use our post as a guideline to make sure that your internship is a good fit!

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