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BY petevanepps

Is An Internship Right For You?

Is an internship right for you? Let’s start by defining it. If you ask Google to define the word intern, the first definition that would pop up is: A student or trainee who works, sometimes without pay, at a trade or occupation to gain work experience. That definition makes a lot of sense to me. I have college-aged children, and each strives to get a great summer internship to gain enough experience to find a job after graduation.  Over the last few years, a few different programs have popped up, offering JMOs a chance to do an internship to find employment after completing active duty service. The issue with most of those internships is that they are not designed for only a  JMO, and they don’t truly rely on a JMO’s leadership advantage. Most internships are also open to different levels of enlisted personnel, some senior officers, as well as in some cases, spouses. Companies struggle to differentiate candidates. We get calls from companies asking them to help translate backgrounds. They are getting resumes from E-4s, O-5s, and JMOs and cannot tell the difference. They do not read evaluations or understand who the top performers are.

An internship might make sense for JMOs who want to get into something functionally technical after active duty. For instance, if you have an accounting degree and want to be an accountant, you will need some work experience to try and catch up with your peers who have been doing accounting since graduating from college. Similarly, if you have a Civil Engineering degree and want to be an engineer designing roads, bridges, or buildings, an internship may help you get your foot in the door to catch up.

After talking to many officers who have either attempted an internship or are planning to do one, they are going that route mainly to find a job. They see the internship as the vehicle to gain employment, not to gain functional expertise in something like accounting or civil engineering. If just finding a job is the end goal, then an internship may be right for you. Some reading this post may argue that, of course, finding a job is the outcome – I need to work when I get out of the military. Allow me to offer a different perspective.

There are 3 ways to market yourself in a transition:

  1. Functional – DoD, Federal Agencies, Contractors
  2. Veteran – Capitalize on goodwill from companies who value those who have served. This is an internship. It is free. But 95% of opportunities are for enlisted, and very few do any targeting for JMOs specifically. You will likely interview for a lower opportunity because you are such a unique and small section of the military. It could take years, if ever, to catch up to peers.
  3. High potential JMO with lots of leadership upside. This is C-B. Top 15% of JMOs. Get onboard a leading company in a role designed to allow you to accelerate your career. Transform from JMO to business leader. Not an internship. Open position, create value for the company, important role.

If you are a top performer in the military, you have much potential in the business world and could inadvertently be walking backward toward an internship and potentially underselling yourself. What you do in your first role out of the military will set you up for success and broaden you for your career. You need to get the best opportunity. Often, internships are not vetted to ensure fit. It is an opportunity for a company to appreciate up to 6 months of free labor.

I encourage you to focus on the best-in-class transition. Set a goal to transform yourself from JMO to a business leader. This takes being in a great company, where you use your skills as a high-potential leader, a role that holds your attention and enables you to develop a track record of success/accomplishments over 3 years or so. To do that, you want to do a career search and evaluate options, find the best fit amounts many, and launch your business career.

If you are a top performer, you already have the skills to launch a career. You know how to lead, solve problems, manage projects, and get results in a real-world environment. I invite you to explore the ability to attend a Cameron-Brooks Career Conference and interview for open positions with decision-makers who represent actual open positions.

So, is an internship right for you?

If you want to explore this question a bit more, let’s schedule a time to talk. I can help you explore your marketability to the business world and truly determine if, based on your goals, an internship is right for you. If it is, we’ll part ways and I’ll wish you the best of success on journey. If other options can help you reach your professional goals, I will share those to help you explore your options and chart a course for successfully transitioning to corporate America.

Additionally, Cameron-Brooks is a DoD-approved SkillBridge provider.

We offer up to a 90-day training program in preparation to attend a Cameron-Brooks Career Conference.

Learn more about what we do at Cameron-Brooks Website

Hear from dozens of other JMOs that have a Cameron-Brooks Career Conference at our YouTube Channel


Pete Van Epps

(210) 874-1519 // pvanepps@cameron-brooks.com