In today's world, a good degree, whether undergraduate or postgraduate, is no longer enough to land that all-important graduate job offer. When building a successful career, work experience, a degree (set of degrees), and your final exam results are almost equally important. In turn, an internship provides exposure to the real world and the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in an industry that interests you before you progress further into your career development. In light of this, exploring interning is helpful to determine if a particular position is pertinent for you and if it directly propels career aspirations. Today we're going to discuss six reasons why internships are critical, what you should know about internships and how they can make you stand out as a candidate in the job market.
Internships are short-term professional learning experiences that companies offer to enable people, usually university students or recent graduates, to gain practical work experience related to their qualifications or career interests. Interns typically work on projects relevant to the objectives of the organisation, learn about their field of study and develop a wide range of technical and interpersonal skills. As a result, internships provide training and development opportunities designed to equip you with knowledge and skills useful to your chosen career path.
The number of hours worked by an intern is determined mainly by the type of internship: full-time or part-time, paid or unpaid, and the length of the internship (most internships last for three months, six months, twelve months, or even twenty-four months).
Success in the workspace goes beyond passing exams and being awarded qualifications with high scores. The level of experience you have in the workplace determines your employability in today's job market. Internships are a great way to gain real-life experience, develop knowledge, and determine whether a particular career field is right for you. Because skills are transferable, your degree does not limit you to a specific employment route.
While internships are vital for understanding the career trajectory for your chosen job title, they don’t have to be directly related to your ultimate career route. This is because any professional or practical work experience may help you build valuable workplace competencies that will make you a desirable candidate to potential employers. For example, interning at a local news station is one approach to obtaining experience as a journalist or news presenter.
A variety of transferable skills or soft skills can easily be absorbed and developed through an internship program. As an intern, you will have plenty of opportunities to practise soft skills in a setting other than your university campus. You will be able to learn the subtle differences between academic and business communication, and you will be able to determine which skills you still need to develop.
Beyond Technical knowledge:
Professionals, interns included, need more than just business and technical knowledge when working for a company. So, no matter how much knowledge you possess about a field, you won’t succeed in any profession unless you know how to work collaboratively and efficiently with others. Through work experience as an intern, you will develop a collaborative and teamwork ethic, which is transferable to any organisation or industry.
An internship will also provide you with first-hand experience with the challenges of a working environment, which will require you to manage working under pressure and meeting deadlines. Your ability to manage obstacles and find solutions to them is one of many scenarios that become key in determining whether or not you are a good match for a company (culture) and role (technical skills, position-specific competencies).
In a job interview, you will be asked about your challenging experiences, both in your personal and professional life. This question is used to assess your ability to rise above them and your capacity to perform your work obligations amidst challenges.
Therefore, to be a suitable candidate, you require individual skills acquired through your upbringing and achievements through formal schooling experiences and university, and competencies obtained through professional working experience (internship programme, graduate programme). The best approach to empower you to secure a job is to be proactive, and an internship is one feasible option.
It is only natural to feel a bit of trepidation as you embark on your career journey. With any major transition, there is an element of taking a leap of faith. You might find the transition into the job market easier if you had the chance to learn more about your field in a professional setting through an internship program.
Is an internship important for self-awareness and personal development?
The simple answer is yes. Throughout your life, you will encounter new experiences that will help you learn more about your capabilities and ultimately encourage you to understand your strengths and weaknesses. Internships offer the perfect opportunity to identify any weaknesses in your skills and gaps in your knowledge and understanding of your field of interest. Being in a position and setting where you can recognise your weaknesses and strengths is beneficial to your personal development; you have the opportunity and resources to rectify any deficiencies and capitalise on your strengths.
In the end, interning should instil confidence in your skills and motivate you to use your strengths to compensate for any inadequacies. One way to tell if an internship is beneficial to your personal development: it pushes you to transform shortcomings into strengths. Therefore, the more time you spend in a professional environment, the more comfortable and confident you can become in your ability to grow and learn.
On the other hand, it is possible to discover during the internship that the position you thought you would like does not spark your passion. If you realise this early on, you can adjust your trajectory before being entangled in a career path that does not serve you. Reaching a consensus may result in applying for another internship in a different organisation.
As a recent graduate, getting work experience is the first step in developing your career. The sooner you gain work experience to build your Curriculum Vitae (CV), the better. The significance of work experience isn't limited to a corporate job in a renowned company or even an office job. An internship is pivotal to the development of skills, access to resources, exposure to diverse people, and practical experience.
A small company might offer you an internship or you could freelance to gain experience. An excellent addition to your CV is any experience that enables you to transfer skills to your future career.
A strong résumé with real-world experience can give you an edge over the competition when applying for a job. Your résumé can highlight your soft and hard skills gained as an intern, the projects you worked on and your contributions to the company. For example, as a marketing intern, you can include on your résumé that you generated a social media campaign that boosted online engagement and led to new leads for the business; mentioning metrics is always a good idea. As a result, potential employers may appreciate that you've applied your classroom knowledge to a professional work setting.
You may be studying or have studied a broad field in a university or college, but acquiring specialised experience may help you narrow your job search and find a position that suits your niche. Therefore, you could benefit from participating in more than one internship. Why? Completing various internships will help you identify which area (industry, subfield) most interests you.
Disclaimer: To maximise your chances of success, you should only complete one internship at a time. For example, you could decide to apply for a summer internship and a winter internship. The decision is entirely up to you. However, remember that every opportunity comes with context-specific lessons and growth opportunities.
Not all internships lead to job hires, but there is always the possibility that you could secure a job at the company you are interning at.
How to make yourself stand out from the crowd as an intern:
Above all, getting a permanent position out of your internship is not a given; rather, it is the result of all your hard work, positive attitude, work ethic, your connections with the team, and proactively putting yourself out there for a permanent job.