Getting a head start with an Internship programme
Oct 7th 2019
Marian Toledo
Author: Marian Toledo
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Internships are considered to be the foolproof way to start a career in a specific field. Often associated with undergraduate students, internships provide excellent opportunities to learn what a specific career or role looks like on a daily basis. It provides a chance to grapple the basic ropes of your chosen professional industry by learning how an industry works. Doing an internship is an excellent way to test out whether you are in the right professional track, to learn the skills and knowledge needed to be successful in a job, and to build your professional network.
Most internships are designed with undergraduate students in mind. They require that applicants are enrolled in a four-year undergraduate programme and that they have completed a specific number of credits or specific coursework. Internships can be prerequisites for graduation in some university programmes or in some fields, like Accounting and Finance. Completing an internship programme as part of your coursework provides an advantage over peers who entered or are about to enter the workforce without completing an internship. Students who do internships before completing their degree will have graduated with enough professional experience and connections to move forward in their careers; they might have an easier time obtaining entry-level positions and, often, they are hired by the company where they did their internships upon graduation.
There are three distinct advantages to doing an internship, and they are not necessarily related to skill acquisition. Rather, the advantage of doing an internship is found in the opportunity to evaluate prospective candidates and, in the case of the student or intern, in the ability to evaluate whether a specific company is right for them. Jonathan Jones, Head of Investment Talent Development at Point72 Asset Management, argues: “Most talent-driven, high-quality organizations use an internship program as a strategic talent pipeline – a way of identifying and vetting prospective candidates for entry-level professional positions.” That means that companies are willing to hire people on which they have already invested money and training. Furthermore, including an internship in your CV or resume indicates to other companies that you are invested in building your professional portfolio, and that makes you more attractive and competitive in the marketplace.
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But the most important aspect of completing an internship is that it allows students to discover whether their chosen industry is the right one for them. Do you like the work you are doing at your internship? Do you see doing this type of work on a full-time basis? What aspects of the industry are you most interested in and why? Doing an internship is a great opportunity for a student to decide if the industry matches with their interests and skills and what type of specific roles they are better suited for in any given industry.
Internship programs are often well-defined and structured. In some cases, universities offer what is known as a sandwich course or a cooperative programme: this four-year undergraduate programme is designed to give student several internships or placement opportunities. Students leave university with considerable industry experience and, possibly, full-time employment. Likewise, governments offer student placement or internship programmes, often during the summer and fall terms, that help students obtain employment in civil service or other government-related professions. Individual associations and corporations also offer internships. In the UK, individual accountancy corporations offer internships designed to help prospective accountants enter the industry. Corporate internships are very competitive: if the companies are offering summer internships, for example, be prepared to start applying in the spring! A strong CV and cover letter, along with excellent references, can help you get your foot on the door. Corporate internships tend to be paid and some even offer benefits, which is part of their appeal and their competitiveness. Many corporate internships are open to a wide range of applicants, not just university students, so they are an excellent option for workers looking to start new careers to obtain experience in a new industry.
The benefits of doing an internship extend beyond simple career advancement. Internships also help students expand on their “soft skills,” or non-technical skills that employers look for in candidates. These include critical thinking and analysis, problem-solving, teamwork, independent work, resourcefulness, innovation and creativity, and negotiation and conflict-solving skills. By exposing students to real work environments, they are able to get the mentorship and guidance that contribute to developing these skills. Because interns are more guided by mentors or supervisors in their work, internships become spaces where students can make mistakes and have them corrected by people who have years of experience in their industry.
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Where can one find internship opportunities when a university does not offer internship programmes? Here are some recommendations:
• When looking for internship opportunities, just as when you are looking for any type of job opportunities, tell your immediate contacts what your goals and intentions are.
• Think about former professors and classmates that have finished their courses. Do they know anyone in your industry of interest that is willing to hire an intern?
• Approach companies you would like to work with and ask if they offer any internship programs. You can search for relevant HR contacts through their websites or LinkedIn.
• Make an appointment with career services and/or a career advisor that can help you identify internship opportunities.
Completing an internship can be one of the most important career decisions you can make. Internships give you the opportunity to develop outside of your university course by giving you the chance to experience what working in the industry is really like. Even if you are you a student, internships can help you try roles in other industries that might be a better fit for you and your career goals. Internships also provide a safe space where prospective employees learn to develop soft skills and other competencies that are valued by companies. An internship is a valuable opportunity to build your CV, network with industry experts, and learn if an industry is right for you.
What next?
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