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The Internship Guide for Interns

The Internship Guide for Interns

The order of certain events in our lives has always been clear. We go to school, then to university, then find a job, and we either choose to grow in this job or discover other jobs or careers.

However, lately, the world is going a lot faster, and it became much harder to find a job right after graduation or based on our studies alone, and the reason for that is usually lack of skills and experience. This resulted in the emergence of a gap between the skills and abilities of students upon graduation and the needs of employers and the labor market.

As a result, many organisations and companies in different fields introduced “Internship Programs” where students get to try out the work environment and learn new skills during their university years.

Today’s students are always looking for internship opportunities in different organisations and companies to enhance their skills and knowledge prior to graduating and finding a job.

However, there are a few questions that students need to know the answers to, to get the most out of their internship programs. These questions are:

  • What are internships?

  • How long are internships?

  • What are the benefits of internships?

  • What do interns do and learn?

  • What are the disadvantages of internships?

  • What to look for in an internship?

What is an internship?

Salisbury University explains that Internships:

  • Are structured educational experiences which incorporate productive work experience as a regular part of a college student's curriculum.

  • Are typically a one-time work or service experience related to a student's major or career goal.

  • Generally involve a student working in a professional setting under the supervision and monitoring of practicing professionals.

  • Can be paid or unpaid, and the student may or may not receive academic credit for performing the internship.

How long are internships?

Most internship programs are usually held at the same time as student breaks, whether winter, summer, mid-term, or end-of-term breaks.

Internships can be part-time, where interns work at the office for only a number of hours and/or days; or they can be full-time, where interns work at the office for the same number of hours and days as the company’s or organisation’s employees.

What are the benefits of internships?

  • Experience the “Real” Work-Life

Students who move from their university to work directly after graduation, without prior experience or internships, usually face a culture shock as they have no idea what goes on in the real work environment, and how much it differs from their own college environment.

So, internships are very beneficial in that they prepare students for work-life after graduation as they get a taste of what it feels like through their internships.

  • Determine What You Want to Do After Graduation

Many students find it difficult to determine what exact job they want to do or which field they want to work in after graduation.

Internships allows students to discover different fields and jobs and know the inner-workings of them; thus, enabling them to make their decisions about what they want to do in their professional lives before graduating.

  • Gain an Advantage (Boost your CV)

All employers prefer their employees to have had at least simple knowledge or experience of the job they are applying to, and internships help you achieve that.

A CV that includes internships is usually more attractive to employers, and usually gets an advantage above others that don’t have any.

  • Meet New People and Potential Employers

Internships enable students to meet new people and connect with them, as well as give them the opportunity to meet potential employers who might be interested to hire them after they graduate; all of which increases the job opportunities students might have after graduation.

  • Gain Self-Confidence

Internships enable you to realise your skills and abilities, take risks and initiatives, and make decisions, due to gaining more real-world experience. All of which helps you know your value and what you can bring to the organisation.

  • What Do Interns Do and Learn?

This usually depends on the type of internship, the type of company or organisation, and the field they operate in.

However, there are a few things that interns do, and thus, learn, that are usually common regardless of the type of internship, company or organisation, and field; such as:

· The opportunity to work in a real-life company or organisation, and as a member of a real-life work team.

· Learning to use technical skills and tools related to different fields.

· Experience with written communication; such as: emails, applications, presentations, proposals, CVs, ...etc.

· Field Work (according to the field itself).

· Working under pressure and learning to work in an environment with deadlines.

· Applying theoretical knowledge gained in the classroom in real life.

What are the disadvantages of Internships?

  • Not All Companies/Organisations “Teach” Interns

Many companies and organisations don’t grasp exactly what interns should do or how to properly teach them new skills and abilities, while others sometimes view interns as assistants; all of which might result in interns spending their work day bringing coffee, copying papers, running errands, and similarly small tasks.

Moreover, some organisations and companies don’t have a specific job description or plans for their interns; thus, they are usually faced with interns with nothing for them to actually do.

  • Non-Existent or Low Financial Outcomes

Many internship programs are not paid, and those that are, usually have very low financial outcomes.

What to look for in an internship?

To avoid going into a wrong internship, one where you will not learn, enhance your skills, or help you achieve any of of your career goals, there are a few things you need to keep in mind when looking for an internship; such as:

  • Relevance to Your Studies and Career Paths

Internships are a way to boost your CV and Career, as well as to help you enhance your skills and abilities, and to apply the theoretical knowledge gained through your college studies in the real-life work environment.

Which is why, it is important that the internship program you choose should be relevant to your career path and what you wish to do after graduation.

  • Networking Opportunities

Internships should allow you to work within a real-life work team to interact and learn from them directly, as well as with other teams and departments; thus, enabling you to know more people and build more connections.

So, do your research prior joining an internship program, and choose one that offers a specific job description which includes tasks through which you can network with different people.

  • Letters of Recommendation

This is the best way to show your future employers how well you did in your internship. So, choose an internship program which offers this at its end.

  • “Real” Work

To avoid going into an internship that ends with you being an assistant doing only simple work tasks, such as: bringing coffee and copying papers, look for an internship program which offers you “real” work and the opportunity to learn “real” new skills and abilities.

To identify this internship program, look for one that offers a job description for the interns, including its requirements, roles, and responsibilities.

  • Mentorship

Who will you work with? Will you learn from them? Will they have the time to lead you through different tasks and answer all your questions? If not, it might be worth it to look for another internship program.

In the end, internships are a very good way for students to get a feel of what happens in the real work environment, to meet new people, and to have more job opportunities upon graduation.

Despite its disadvantages, it’s clear how much its advantages outweigh them and how beneficial internships are.

Written by Yasmine Mokhtar

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