Need help with career planning? Whether you’re still exploring career options or seeking work experience to bolster your resume, internships can prove invaluable as you develop your career.

You no longer have to simply be more qualified than the person next to you, you have to be more qualified than countless others all around the world. Going to a college or university is a critical step, but you can greatly enhance your classroom learning by gaining real world experience through internships.

Internships allow you to beef up your portfolio or resume and make valuable industry contacts that can be essential to landing the ideal job upon graduation. Remember the old adage, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” Well toss that right in the garbage can. In today’s competitive job market, it’s what you know and who you know that often makes the difference. Internships are a great way to address both of those issues at the same time.

Internships can help those interested in many different careers or industries decide which one is best suited for them by having ‘hands on’ experience.

During an internship, graduates and students may have the opportunity to work with other employees and interns. By working with others, they are able to make connections with their co-workers. These connections may be beneficial later when they are interviewing and need references. It may also be useful if they are considering working for various companies because they can ask the previous co-workers what they know about the company in order to make a well-informed decision. They may also ask their co-workers if they know anyone working at companies that they are applying to, thus, giving them a slight advantage. Evidently, developing relationships and connections with co-workers and other interns can be beneficial in several ways.

Employers also have a clear preference for entry-level job candidates who have had internships that are relevant to the kind of work they do. So why wait, start looking for a great internship as soon as you can.