Why you shouldn’t do an internship too soon

I didn’t do an internship during my Bachelor of Arts (BA) or my Master of Arts (MA) because that option wasn’t available to me. Looking back though, and with the experience I have now, would I have opted for an internship if the option was available to me?

Context

My career goals changed 4 times during the 5 years it took me to complete my BA:

  1. Before I had declared my first major, I intended to become a writer. Journalist, novelist, freelancer, whatever — so I took several English courses. But after the first course on rhetoric, I decided it wasn’t for me.
  2. Then I took a course on archaeology. I enjoyed it (and the idea of becoming the next Indiana Jones) and declared my first major as anthropology, with the goal of becoming an archaeologist. But then I was told, ’There are no jobs in archaeology.’
  3. I needed another discipline that I could declare as a second major that would offer more job options, so I enrolled in geography. I was fascinated with urban planning then, specifically with managing stormwater runoff, and considered becoming a planner.
  4. In the last term of my BA, I enrolled in an elective public health course. Public health, as it turns out, combines a lot of my interests into a single discipline. I still wanted to be a planner, but now I wanted to specialize in planning for public health.

I graduated with a BA (hons.) in anthropology and geography, and shortly after enrolled in a 1-year MA program with a specialization in recreation and leisure studies.

A woman sitting in the office looking bored

Back to the question

Would I have opted to do an internship if the option was available to me? No.

The majority of students who complete an internship end up getting hired by the company they interned at (see this or this). While some may celebrate this statistic, it could also be interpreted differently: the majority of students commit to a career after completing an internship.

I wasn’t ready to commit to a career at any point during my BA or MA, and an internship may have distracted from my exploration. At worst, it may have driven me down a career path I would have disliked, and it is difficult to change that later in life.

My advice: focus on exploring your interests during your undergraduate degree, not on finding a job. If you’re offered an internship, you don’t have to avoid it, but make sure it doesn’t distract you from exploring your interests.