Getting first-hand experience of the working world is crucial for anyone on the path to professional success. In fact, a 2013 report found that more than 50% of employers wouldn't give a job to graduates without experience.
Students are often encouraged to cultivate the skills they need by interning as much as possible. When they're done right, internships can help to bridge the gap between employment and education. Here, Rebekah Carter of OfficeGenie.co.uk outlines everything you need to know about your first internship.
Why are internships so valuable?
One of the questions many students ask about internships, is what's the difference between them, and a standard volunteer position? Fundamentally, an internship is somewhere between work experience and an apprenticeship. It can help you to get the insight you need into your chosen industry. An internship is a no-strings solution for you to try out an industry that could help to shape the rest of your career.
By the time you've finished your internship, you'll have:
- Made a range of useful connections and future networking possibilities.
- Gained valuable hands-on experience that can often be transferred to wherever you work (including teamworking skills and possibly leadership skills).
- Upgraded your CV.
- Developed your confidence within a working environment.
Making the most of your internship
Once you've landed an internship, you'll need to know how to make the most of it. An internship is your chance to make yourself heard in your chosen industry. In other words, it's no time to be a wallflower. To make the most out of your experience:
- Constantly search for opportunities to grow, by asking to take part in new tasks, or help with different things.
- Communicate with as many different people as possible. The connections you make as an intern could secure a long-term job.
- Build your confidence. Being friendly and confident are key skills that most employers look for in the long-term: show your employer what you're made of.
- Act with passion. You might not be earning the same as you'd get from a typical job during your internship, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't go above and beyond. The more passion you show, the more likely you are to secure employment in this workplace or the next!
Our top 5 internship tips
Now you know the basics of an internship, remember the following five tips for enhancing your experience:
- Push for paid work: Generally, paid internships have more structure, and are more likely to lead to paid jobs than unpaid, or voluntary work. If you find an unpaid internship that speaks to you, consider writing a letter to the head of the company and explain that you're passionate about the position, but that you can't afford to work for free. This won't work for everyone, but it might help to ensure that you're first on a company's list when paid work becomes available.
- Get it in writing: No matter the details of your internship, it's a good idea to ask for a description of your duties, and the training you'll receive in return. The documents you put together at the start of your internship can be something you show future employers.
- Keep a journal: It may sound strange, but keeping a log of everything you learn during your internship experience can be a huge help. In that log, you can enter important facts, as well as the contact details of people you meet along the way. Remember, there are few networking opportunities more effective than an internship.
- Ask for references: Before your internship is over, make sure you ask for a written reference. If your boss has hundreds of interns on a regular basis, it'll be useful to remind them of who you are, and what you've accomplished before you go.
- Make your internship work for you: Finally, remember that getting an internship doesn't mean you've finished your education. This is your chance to learn in a practical, real-life working environment. Make sure that you ask for help and guidance when you need it, and don't be afraid to speak up.
Remember, no matter what happens, an internship will give you that valuable experience you need to make yourself stand out in your next job application!
Rebehak Carter writes for OfficeGenie.co.uk: a desk and office space marketplace for freelancers, startups, and SMEs.