A reader writes:
I am currently awaiting the start my junior year at a D.C. university and was fortunate enough to spend my summer in Washington, D.C. I threw myself into 50 hours of work per week - with two part-time internships and a part-time job.
With the summer now in full swing, I have already started applying to some fall internship opportunities. However, my concern is jumping around too much. I'm at two rather "entry-level internships" (if that's even a phrase) and would love a more prestigious position before I graduate. On the other hand, I love my internship coordinators and both organizations where I currently intern. As a career guru, what would you recommend? Is it better to sit still at an internship you like (I'm also doing an independent study in the non-profit's specialty) or climb the internship latter and experience all you can in four years?
I think it depends on the details of your current internships. Do you feel like you're on an upward trajectory, where you're continuing to learn new things and develop yourself professionally? And if you stayed with them longer, do you think that would continue, or would you quickly hit a point where there wouldn't be much more change or growth?
In many jobs, it takes a significant amount of time to truly master the job before you hit a point of diminishing returns -- which is why I think people should stay in any remotely challenging job for at least a couple of years, at a minimum. But internships are different; they're designed to be short-term -- often just a few months -- and so they often don't ever really get all that challenging.
I think you should talk with the internship coordinators at each of your current internships. Tell them how much you love being there and express an interest in staying on longer, and ask if they'd be open to letting you take on new projects and responsibilities if you stayed, so that you'd continue to gain professionally. If they're open to that, you've got a strong argument for staying.
On the other hand, there's no real wrong answer here. If you want to go out and explore other places instead, you should feel good about doing that too. There's an advantage to being exposed to different workplaces, different office cultures, different management styles, and different work.
You pretty much have a win-win situation here: Either you stay where you are and get the experience of growing within an organization, or you take advantage of the fact that you can actually do a lot of internship-hopping without it looking bad, because that's expected with internships. And by the way, I looked at the resume you sent and it's excellent -- so you're in really good shape. I'd go with your gut. Good luck!