10 things you should know about an internship
1) Depending on when and where you do your internship, it can help you choose the subjects you need/want to study further along the line.
There are those people who are very lucky and know from a young age exactly what it is they want to do when they grow up, and so knowing what work experience to follow and what subjects to study is always an easier process. Alternatively, if you don’t know what you want to do later on in life, an internship could be an ideal way to help you decide what to study at school or at university. If you do an internship at an accountancy firm and love it, you know you’re going to have to study maths related subjects. In this day and age, we are lucky in the way that it’s not always necessary to study specific subjects to pursue a certain degree. Law conversion courses are an excellent example of this. So my suggestion is, even after one or many internship(s) you are still unsure, to study subjects you enjoy doing and to take a wide variety of subjects from different departments: arts, sciences, languages, social sciences etc.
2) It improves your understanding of a particular industry
You may have some preconceptions about working within a particular field of work. For example, I always thought I wanted to be a lawyer, thinking that it was such a glamorous life and action packed with drama and sophistication. After a week in a lawyer’s office…I discovered how wrong I could I be. I personally found it boring and there is far more paperwork and administration than I thought there would be. I soon decided to take a different path and so I have been working and doing internships related to languages ever since. I am still working out the correct path for me, but each time I learn more and more.
3) It’s a great investment of time
Take it from someone who has had a lot of summer holidays over the past 21 years of my life. From the time I was told to start thinking about doing work experience I have had 20 months holiday in the last 7 years. That is 89 weeks, 623 days, 14,961 hours…. you get the picture – and that’s just the summer holidays! Are you really going to remember every second of every summer holiday or your life? When you’re 35, you won’t remember that time you were sat on the couch eating bonbons one August morning; but you will remember if that was the summer you discovered your passion (or indifference) and love (or hate) of a particular industry. Invest your time wisely. It will serve you well in the future.
4) They look great on your CV
An American magazine called ‘TIME’ wrote an article about graduate students saying that 80% of employers prefer graduate students to have had a formal internship prior to hiring them.
This is a note to the parents, yes you, the mum or dad looking over the shoulder of your child to make sure they’re on the internet using their time wisely…you know exactly what I mean. There is no way of sugar coating this. Internships are not only time consuming. They are also quite costly. Sometimes internships are unpaid. But helping to finance your child through an internship is a great investment. It’s easy for me to say this being on the receiving end…I’m not the one paying! BUT this is a very productive way of spending your money on your precious babies. Not only will it increase their independence but also it will help them mature and develop their own ideas about their career. Even if they end up doing an internship, which isn’t the career they end up doing in the future, they will still be learn some incredible life skills and learn experiences that you can’t learn any other way.
Back to the younger generation though. Don’t give up. I know how hard it is to try and convince your parents how an unpaid internship is a good idea. My dad is as tight with his money as a submarine door. My advice is: give them time to come around to the idea. If you’re anything like me, you get frustrated when they can’t see your point of view. Instead of screaming your persuasive argument at them…write it down. Write down all the benefits and advantages you’re going to receive from the internship, and the ways it will influence your life and the ways you’re going to try and contribute back your family as a way of gratitude. Maybe even anticipate their counter arguments and incorporate them into your written spiel, so you are prepared and can provide a clear response to them in advance. This way you also show that you understand their qualms regarding the internship. I did just this when I asked my father if I was allowed to do the internship at OrientaEuro. It took a 3-page email to convince him and now he’s even more enthusiastic than I am about it. I’m now having the time of my life in Brussels working on a project I am passionate about, learning new things constantly!
However, I also understand that an unpaid internship is just not even a possibility for a lot of people. That’s not a problem either. Any experience is good experience, as long as you can show initiative and independence. You could work in McDonald’s and that would still look good on your CV. Make sure you explain what valuable skills you picked up though: teamwork, customer service?
5) It is a long process of waiting, emailing and rejections
Let’s be realistic. This is not a fun part of the process. Do NOT be disheartened or put off by the monotony of internship applications. We’ve all been there. It can be daunting applying to internships and jobs; especially when you see the countless forms required to be filled in, not to mention continuously adapting your covering letters and CVs to fit the job description. It is a long and repetitive process. As horrible as the idea may sounds, apply to as many as possible, the more people you write to, the more likely you will get a response from at least one of them. Even apply to companies that aren’t offering advertised internships, find the companies you’re passionate about and contact them. It will show that you take initiative and the fact that you’ve contacted them will prove how interested you are in their company. The worst they can do is say no. It’s always useful in the future for you to have good practice of letter and email writing etc. If you’re unsure how to write a good email, why don’t you read our blog for guidance?
Just remember when one door shuts, another opens.
6) Practice makes perfect
The more interviews and application forms you do, the better you will become at it AND it will help prepare you for the interview of your dream job. All this form filling and teeth polishing won’t be completely pointless. Bare in mind that good things come to those who wait. All these applications, interviews, work experiences, phone answering, coffee making, photocopying…it is all good practice. And at the end of the internship, you will be able to make the world’s best cup of coffee – and trust me that WILL be useful later on in life.
7) It increases your skills and knowledge
According to the ‘TIME’ magazine, more that 60% of employers think that applicants lack interpersonal and communication skills. By doing an internship, even if it is a field of work you don’t think you’ll be interested in, or even if you are doing the menial jobs, like making coffee or answering the phones, it offers you an excellent opportunity to practice your communication skills. I am a really quiet and shy person, but I’ve had to throw myself into the deep end. Talk to everyone. Be open. I understand how hard that can be for some people. Really I can. But it’s not the end of the world if you embarrass yourself. You’ll just have a great dinner party story at the end of the day. Start small, and work your way up.
By practising your interpersonal skills you may also meet someone who could be very important in your future. Talk to everyone. As bad as your day may be, always be polite, keep smiling and keep your tone of voice upbeat. Be very British about it if you have to – talk about the weather. And then maybe work your way up to talk about something more serious. If you work in a huge building, talk to people in the lift, ask them what they do, show an interest. Invite colleagues to go for drinks after work with you.
9) It builds confidence
Internships will make you practice all those previously mentioned skills: networking, interpersonal, communication etc. The more experience you get, the more confident, comfortable and content you will be in carrying out tasks independently or within a team.
10) The supervisor may be willing to act as a referee for you in future applications
Do a good job and impress your boss. He could be your saving grace in the future. My advice is to create a nice, friendly relationship between you and your coordinator. Try and stay in contact with them when you leave. If you genuinely did a good job and interacted with the team, I’m sure they’d love to hear about the progress you’re making and they may even ask you to come back in the future for paid employment.
Hey! Did you know OrientaEuro offer internships? Why don’t you check them out on our website? www.orientaeuro.eu/internships