The following was written during my time at Indiana INTERNnet and was originally published here.
There will be a multitude of points in your career where you will have to make difficult decisions, including throughout your college years. If you’ve applied to many internships, for example, you might be faced with having to choose one position over the other. A number of factors should be evaluated before you make your decision, and each of them weighs differently for everyone. Here a few things to think about if you’re currently facing this dilemma:
Review the job descriptions for each opportunity. Is one or the other more likely to bolster your resume or portfolio? For example, if the main task for an internship is to schedule one social media post every day for the company, but you already have experience orchestrating entire social media marketing campaigns, it might not be the best move for you. On the other hand, if you’re qualified for a different position that has a few duties you’ve never done before, it might be better for you in the long run because you’ll learn more.
Make sure you’re clear on the responsibilities that would be expected of you at either organization, and if you’re unsure about them, reach out to the person who offered you the position. Internships are all about experiential learning – getting experience in the types of jobs you think you’d want after graduation – and expanding your portfolio while you do it. It doesn’t make sense to take an internship that’s exactly like something you’ve already done before.
Ask yourself, which of these opportunities works better for my financial needs? Some college students are not in a financial position to accept unpaid internships, particularly if they require a high number of office hours and eliminate the ability to work a part-time job. If you’re in a position where having added income is important, you should weigh your options carefully – don’t automatically assume one position is better than the other because it looks like it will pay more.
If you have the information available, consider the number of hours you’ll be expected to work each week. If a company is offering you $12.00 an hour, but they’re only paying you for eight hours a week, you’ll bring home less than a position that pays $10.00 an hour for 20 hours a week. Even though $12.00 looks like a better number, calculating your average weekly income shows that it’s not.
The format of the payment for internships also makes a difference. Some pay by the hour, as with the aforementioned example, but oftentimes interns are paid via stipends. Stipends are pre-determined lump sums, and generally do not have taxes taken from them, like scholarships. If one opportunity has a stipend, and one pays by the hour, it’s important to consider taxes when doing the math. SmartAsset has a helpful tool to help you do this.
This is not to say that unpaid internships should be skipped over – many factors play into why or why not a role is a good fit for you. Budgets are unique to every individual and to every organization offering internships, so it’s important to understand what the position entails and what you can afford.
This one might seem a little obvious, but students often try to take on too much at once. It can feel like there’s a lot expected out of you, and the best way to get ahead is to cram your schedule full of various opportunities. (I might even be speaking from experience.) Consider, do you actually have time to commit to the internships you’re considering? You shouldn’t accept an opportunity that you don’t have time for. Though it can be maddening to have to pass up an internship for this reason, sometimes you just have to let things go.
If between the two internships, one seems like a slightly better fit but they’re asking for a number of office hours that you can’t commit to, be honest with the employer. Send them an email or call them on the phone and explain the situation, “I appreciate this opportunity and would love to pursue it, but I don’t have 30 spare hours a week. Is there any way you’d be willing to hire me to work 20 instead?” If they agree, great! If the employer says they need someone who can meet the 30 hours per week, then the internship is not the good fit that you originally assumed it was.
The bottom line is that when searching for internships, you might have to make some tough calls. It’s important to think rationally about the opportunities that you’ve been offered – take as much time as you’ve been allowed to weigh the pros and cons of each. It’s better to take your time when replying than to rush your answer and realize you’ve made the wrong choice for your career once the internship starts.