I asked several people completing their university studies on their opinion regarding internships and it seemed to be the consensus that it was just something you did to put on your CV or resume.
However, is a good-looking resume the only reason you should become an intern? There is more to it than that.
The value stems from the fact that internships mirror real jobs.
From the parallels of job hunt and internship search at the start, to the work you do and the hours you put in.
The experience can make you an asset by putting you in unfamiliar situations and for hands on development of skills.
Experience is such a crucial part of life that we often forget because it’s something we can gain every day.
Internships provide the means for you to exceed employer expectations, which gives you the edge when you are looking for a job.
It is one thing to tell people you have studied engineering, but it is another to say you have experience in the field.
Here are some benefits to getting an internship and some of the things you can do to get the most value out of it while simultaneously avoiding the pitfalls of being a new intern.
Be Brave & Don’t Blame Others
Everyone has their fears and anxieties. Sometimes you need to do something that takes you out of your comfort zone.
For many students transitioning into the work force, they are sailing into uncharted waters and heading into unexplored territory.
Internships provide the means for you to take calculated risks. Think of it like riding a bicycle but with training wheels.
Do you have doubts about your career choice? Have you always wanted to try living somewhere new, but never had the chance?
Going on an internship can provide the answers to your doubts while developing your self-esteem.
A big problem that many people struggle with is fear of failure. There is a negative stigma on mistakes, despite the fact they are a natural fact of life.
It should be noted, many great people remembered for their achievements have stumbled and struggled to reach where they are now.
Just look at Dr. Seuss, a famous children’s author who had his first book rejected 27 times before finding a publisher.
It takes confidence to try in the face of failure and learn from mistakes.
Confidence can be difficult to build without a little help, which is why I recommend this article, 5 Powerful Ways to Boost Your Confidence by Peter Economy.
Owning up to your mistakes is hard, but that doesn’t give you a free pass to blame others.
First off, pointing fingers when something goes wrong will not only show you lack the ability to take responsibility.
It’s your mistake, deal with it.
Second, your coworkers won’t appreciate taking the heat for something that you fault.
Needless to say, you will not be making many friends in the workplace which is less than ideal if you are looking for full-time work after completing your internship.
Thing Globally, Not Locally
We live in an interconnected world. Countries are dependent on each other, whether it is for trade, tourism, necessities or even war.
There is a domino effect that occurs worldwide when something large happens.
Think back to the Great Recession around 2009 that occurred worldwide when the housing industry in the USA collapsed.
The collapse of a market sector in one country ended up having a huge impact on the entire world.
People should not view events in isolation, but from a global perspective.Possessing a point of view akin to tunnel vision is a hindrance in today’s globalized world.
The world is evolving every day and the closed bubble that some people have been living in their entire lives must be popped.
So, let’s broaden our minds and become up to date with current events internationally, instead of only focusing on the local news in your small town.
You can act local, but you need to think global.
Why is thinking globally important in this specific circumstance? Well, a future internship in an international country will force you to change your way of thinking.
Immersing yourself into another culture, meeting new people, and living a different lifestyle all play a major factor into this.
It is now important for you to begin thinking globally and expanding that tunnel vision into something much bigger.
It’s not enough to simply know that other countries exist, you must have some modicum of respect for their cultures as well.
Not only is it impolite, but being a racist, sexist or discriminatory towards things like religion and age can get you in hot water.
Avoid stereotyping your coworkers and get to know them instead.
If you haven’t been exposed to an international environment before, do your research to avoid slip-ups.
This is especially true if your internship involves dealing with foreign clients and customers as well.
There is a lot of information available on business culture for different countries on websites like commiseco-global.com.
Network To Build, Not To Burn
“Always make a great first impression.” Have you ever received that advice from someone?
I’m sure you’ve seen a trailer for a new movie that’s releasing and you said something like, “This looks terrible, I’m not going to watch this.”
Whoever produced these movies or created the trailers didn’t give a great first impression for you.
This concept mimics the idea of marketing yourself to other people.Make no mistake; networking will play an important part in your career. To network is to market yourself.
Constructing a good network builds bridges with individuals, groups and companies who may play a vital part of your future.
When buying a product, a testimonial of someone you trust holds more weight than an advertisement. The same applies to internships and jobs.
Lena Benjamin talks about how her personal experience with networking made her effective at selling herself.
Check out her article for more information.
People go networking to meet new people, so be prepared to talk and introduce yourself! Speak briefly, take initiative and be a good listener to get the most out of networking events.
Don’t forget to bring some business cards along for an easy exchange of contact details.
Just because someone isn’t a somebody now, doesn’t mean they won’t be a somebody later.
Don’t limit yourself on networking with only people who you perceive to be worthy of your time.
Challenge yourself to approach people you normally wouldn’t.
Even if you dislike someone from your first impression, give them a second chance.
Make sure you say your thank yous and farewells after your internship is done to leave things on a positive note.
You ultimately can’t control how people think and feel about you, but you should do the best you can.
Be Independent Yet Part Of A Team
It is important to be independent and self-sufficient in your work life.
Bosses value disciplined employees who can work with minimal supervision. If you aim to be a boss yourself, being independent is a given.
Regardless of what you do, you will be working with people whether they be co-workers, partners, customers or clients.
Remember all those group assignments and projects you did in school? Did your teacher ever ask if all the members are doing their part?
Yeah, your group will receive the same grade at the end of the day. Unless, secretly, your teacher is scoring you based on the work you do individually for your team.
This is a perfect example of being independent within a team.Your internship will give you a chance to meet many new people and develop social skills in a work environment.
Learning how to work with others is an invaluable skill to develop because companies hire people not only based on their qualifications, but on how they would fit with their current team.
If you show what value you can offer as an individual and as a team member, you demonstrate flexibility to adapt to your social surroundings.
Marie G. McIntyre outlines how you can independently play your role well and what you can also do to be more of a team player.
You don’t have to be best friends with people from work. However, that doesn’t mean you should be anti-social either.
Try to make acquaintances of the people you work with. When you build rapport with your coworkers, you will find your work more enjoyable.
Building a wall to isolate yourself does you no favors. Introverts, take note. Even if you reach out to only a few individuals, that’s better than nothing.
Be An Inquirer, Not An Assumer
“It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question,” a quote by Eugene Ionesco.
People tend to shy away from asking questions because they don’t want to come off as being unintelligent.
There is a fear that your teacher, boss, or someone of higher authority will look down upon you when you ask questions.
Another reason could be that they have social anxiety to speak up for themselves.
These people need to realize that it’s not frowned upon to ask questions but rather a sign of enthusiasm.
Asking questions shows that you want to explore a foreign topic and gain that knowledge which you previously didn’t have.
When performing an internship, it is important to keep in mind that you’re doing on the job training.
Your employer or supervisor that is overseeing your internship wants and expects you to ask questions.
You will make mistakes and sometimes it is important to make those mistakes because you learn from it.
The knowledge that you gain over time from “being an inquirer” will pay off in the end.
Remember, it’s extremely likely that other individuals have the same questions as you.
How do you know what you know is true? When you assume, you don’t.
Imagine this: you have a Japanese client named ‘Junko’. If you are unfamiliar with Japanese names, for an English speaker it sounds very masculine.
However, it is a woman’s name and accidentally misgendering someone can be awkward and perhaps even cross into offensive territory.
There are times when you have no choice but assume things. Otherwise, avoid it if possible.
Innovate With The World
“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
This is a quote by Wayne Dyer, an American philosopher and motivational speaker. Can you look at this quote as a clever spin on words?
Sure, but there really is truth behind it. Try and inspect how you view some aspects of the world.
It can really be an eye opener when you broaden your mind and look at things from a different perspective.The world is growing and evolving every day. This is especially true in the field of technology, which is growing increasingly more sophisticated at a rapid pace.
An article written by Mr. Tiger Tyagarajan quoted, “Over 80% of stock markets are currently using robot traders – threatening the very nature of the trading professions.”
He also stated that the World Economic Forum has predicted that artificial intelligence (AI) and robots will take more than 5 million jobs by the year 2020.
You can read more here about Mr. Tiger Tyagaraian’s article.
Make no mistake, machines are coming for many of our jobs in the future. To remain in the workforce, we should take initiative to improve ourselves.
Jobs in today’s market are evolving and changing like we’ve never seen before. This also means that internships are evolving as well.
By taking action and starting an internship you will gain invaluable industry experience and show a passion to learn that machines simply cannot offer.
Just because something has always been done a certain way doesn’t mean it needs to stay the same.
Change is often scary, uncomfortable, unknown but also unavoidable. When it’s time to innovate and change, that also means it’s time to take some calculated risks.
The competition will crush you if you remain stagnant in today’s competitive market. Forget the saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
Learning is not limited by age and we can all be life-long learners.
Persevere When You Fail
What if you’ve applied for an internship, but you were rejected? The answer is simple: try again.
Look at a rejection as a blessing in disguise, because maybe they thought you weren’t a fit for them.
Immediate acceptance does not come for people applying for jobs, and the same should be said of internships.
Yes, you are eager for an employer to contact you back immediately but it takes time and patience.
Keep in mind the internships you are applying for and make sure they relate to your field of study.
Be strategic in your approach to an internship application process.Perhaps you’ve gotten your internship already and you’ve made a mistake as an intern. This is the point where you need to reflect on it.
So take a step back and recognize how you can improve from your mistake.
When working as an intern it is common for errors to occur but you need to realize that this is a natural part of the learning process.
Just keep in mind that it’s how you respond in the face of adversity that matters.
Internships can be difficult. That doesn’t mean you should quit.
Perhaps it’s an assignment you were given by your boss that you are struggling with. Instead of giving up, consider alternative avenues.
Can I look it up online? Is there someone I can ask for help or advice? Have I tried breaking down the task?
Make sure you give whatever you do a valiant effort before calling it quits.
Still Intimidated By Internships? Give Them A Chance
The knowledge you gained from school doesn’t necessarily translate to the ability to complete actual work tasks.
Let’s say you studied public speaking, but that means your experience is likely limited to presenting in front of classmates as opposed to professional businessmen and women.
Internships have you practice application of your knowledge to build experience, expertise, and proficiency.
If you need help, there are many resources available to help people looking for internships.
For example, another blog post How to Get Funding For Your Internship by Natanong Maikhu provides information and resources from scholarships to crowdfunding to part-time work.
There are also services provided by companies like ours that help students by placing them in an internship that is suitable for their needs.
What you can get out of an internship amounts to more than bullet points on your resume.
You gain qualities that make you a valuable asset for the future.
Internships have so much to offer you, provided you seize the opportunity to make the most of it.
For those skeptical or unconvinced about the value of internships, let the testimonials from interns speak for themselves.
What are you waiting for? Look into getting an internship for yourself!
Article co-authored by Dennis Scharpf and Mariya Gainsford.