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Many people feel that finishing university with a good grade is enough to see them sail happily into their dream job.
It can come as a bit of a shock when you realise you aren’t as employable as you thought you were. The days of receiving no positive responses turn into weeks and your confidence drops. As a result, your motivation plummets too, and you’re wondering what on earth is wrong with you. Your CV is good, your cover letter is on point and your grades are good; but the missing, and often most important piece of the puzzle is experience.
At this, perfectly natural stage, applying to internships is something you should really consider doing. The likelihood is that what you have in qualifications, you lack in practice, and it’s a stage that many (if not most) of us go through. In reality education and qualifications are boxes that all of the candidates applying for the position will have ticked, and in an increasingly competitive world, experience is everything.
Education tells you very little about an individual, and innovation, creativity and ability to adapt are much more valuable than the traditional skills in the modern day job market. This is due, partially, to the erratic nature of modern business itself.
Things change very quickly and if companies can’t adapt with it then they are swiftly forgotten – look at Nokia!
An internship is different from a placement or work experience, for example, in that it can last between anywhere from 4 weeks to a year. A placement, such as a year in industry or a “sandwich year”, generally lasts a full year and occurs while the individual is still in university education.
An internship can be completed before the end of a university degree too, but people often opt to do a summer internship in this case.
Some are paid, but many aren’t, and those that are, are often paid at a much lower rate than the company would typically offer.
Nowadays the concept of the internship is being used as a kind of extended interview, or trial period, for companies to pick and choose the best interns too take on.
The most obvious benefit of completing an internship is the experience that it offers. This can be key exposure to the world of work and should give you that workplace confidence that is essential and yet an awkward thing to learn.
Internships can also be perfect sources for vital connections – make sure your LinkedIn profile looks good ahead of your first day! An internship offers you the chance to gain mentors, references and relationships with people in a parallel situation.
At the other end of the scale, there are downsides to doing an internship. The title of Intern itself is not exactly a desirable one and there is the danger of being given the menial tasks that nobody else wants to do.
Also, many internships are unpaid, so you will have to be able to support yourself financially. Think of them as paying for experience, so don’t pay for experience you won’t want or use. If the internship is only part-time then maybe you can get a part-time job to pay the bills, but money will be tight and you can kiss goodbye to any free time!
To accept a full-time, unpaid internship you have to be 100% sure that it is vital for your career, especially if money is tight and you will have to support yourself. It should be a smart investment of your time.
An internship is not necessarily an essential step on the path to getting a job, but it is fast becoming so. But if that job is your dream job, the chances are that it’s many other people’s dream job too, and competition will be high!
Of course it depends on the industry, but in a climate where experience trumps qualifications, an internship is always worth considering as an option. It doesn’t mean that you’re settling for less than your potential, you are bettering yourself and increasing your employability.
Doing an internship abroad not only shows that you have gained experience in your desired field of work, but countless other things too. There are numerous reasons why people move abroad, and it is something that you should really consider if you want to dramatically boost your employability. Moving abroad to gain experience shows independence, confidence, adaptability, cultural awareness and bravery, things that a normal internship in your home city would not demonstrate. You’ve shown that you are a risk taker and not afraid to adapt and innovate.
It also provides you with the ideal opportunity to develop skills such as languages. Speaking foreign languages is more highly valued than ever and it could be the deciding factor between you and the other candidate who gets to the final interview stage. In the era we live in, it is possible to learn languages from your bedroom, but the most effective, swift and enjoyable method of learning is to immerse yourself in the culture.
Looking for an internship can be tough in itself, but deciding where you want to do it is becoming an increasingly important question that young people are asking themselves too.
Do you have any experience or advice concerning internships? Share them below – they could help someone out!