Internships: Step up to the Plate
What is an internship?
An internship is the chance to get an idea of what it is like to work at a company and to sample a professional environment. Internships have a variable duration. They can be a two-week placement within a particular division of a company or they can last up to a year. That said, internships vary in length from firm-to-firm, but these verge on an average length of 12 weeks,where interns gain a sense of what it is like to work for a company for a prolonged period of time. The majority of internships take place over the summer months, giving interns full-time and often paid summer employment and added career value. Those that last all year tend to be part time.
The importance of interning
Whilst your supervisor might tell you otherwise, academic education is not the only thing that should be occupying your time at university. Higher education provides the opportunity for extra-curricular activities, networking and gaining valuable work experience. Landing a summer internship at a top firm every year is probably the best way to get your career off to a flying start. The valuable experience gained and the contacts made will put you miles ahead of your peers when it comes to getting a job.
The major downside of an internship, unless it is in finance, consulting or law, is that it is likely to be unpaid, although mostoffer nominal stipends. While earning little to nothing may not seem appealing in the short-term, it will almost always pay off in the long term.
Almost regardless of what sector you are hoping to break into, an internship or industry experience will give you a distinct advantage against others without experience competing for position. Particularly for those looking to break into industries such as media, entertainment or politics, the best way to get ahead of the rest is to intern in the sector. As mentioned, doing an internship provides an insight into how the particular profession operates, and also crucially facilitates the opportunity to make contacts with those in the field of interest.
Show me the money
Although it is unlikely that an internship outside of the finance and law sectors will offer any pay, this is not to say that there is no financial reward. Depending on the internship and the company, things like stipends or reimbursement of expenses and travel bursaries are available. There is also the possibility that if an intern shows a great deal of promise during his or her time with the company, a permanent or paid position could be arranged.
How to get ahead
As many people espouse the benefits of internships, it is not surprising that they are generally oversubscribed. Therefore, it is advisable to take on the following hints when trying to get a foot in the door:
• Apply by the deadline
Getting an application in as soon as possible is highly advised. The company might be pressed for an intern and might hire the first applicant that they receive.
• Follow the instructions
If a company is looking for an intern, they will be looking for something specific. Therefore, if they ask for a writing sample, it is best not to send a photo portfolio. Also remember that this is your chance to shine and show your best work, so don’t include a short story that was written at the age of five, even if your mum really likes it.
• Try to impress
Make sure that the CV you send is up-to-date and carefully spell-checked. Another good way to improve an application is to have it, as well as your cover letter and CV, read over by a professional friend or family member as they will know what to include and what to leave out.
• Cover every base
If a company asks for a cover letter to accompany an application, make sure to include one. The cover letter is a chance to sell yourself and to show why the company, as well as yourself, would benefit from having you involved with their company.
• Persistence pays off
If there is any delay, such as two weeks or longer between the application and the response, don’t feel afraid to give the company a call. Even if you are told that you will have to wait a little while longer, your persistence and keenness will have been noted. Just don’t end up pestering them all day, every day.
• Be flexible
The point of the internships is that they are highly useful in the long-term rather than the short-term. Therefore, try to be flexible as to things like availability and pay. Being too fussy can result in no internship. It is also possible to get an internship after graduating. If at all possible and financially viable, try to get an internship. You just don’t know where it might lead.
Keep on smiling
The key to getting the most out of an internship is to give it your all. If you are fortunate enough to get a position, it is important to be enthusiastic and try to make the most out of the opportunity. Showing commitment will endear you to your employers and they might be inclined to give you greater responsibilities. Be punctual, don’t waste time, and show a willingness to learn and listen to those who are in charge.
Foot first in the door
One way to impress those who are about to employ you is to turn up early. Arriving early generally gives you a chance to get a feel of the place and the environment in which you will be working. Try to be a helpful volunteer and you may find yourself rewarded. Additionally, you might have the first pick of assignments or be able to choose where you would like to sit.
Once you get to work for a company, you should not necessarily feel bound through the department you find yourself in. Companies are made up of several departments and as you are working for that company, it is perfectly fine to be transferred between departments. A good way to get yourself transferred to the department of your choice is to make the reasonable demand of wishing to broaden your horizons by seeing and learning what happens in other departments.
No one likes a moaner
Your time during an internship is likely to be a tough time, complete with lots of hard work and often little pay. You might be given several menial tasks to do which you might think are beneath someone who is top of their class in every subject. However, trust the fact that all the experience you’re gaining is ultimately valuable and that whether or not it seems like it, your co-workers and managers are all watching you. So, complaining about having to do hours and hours of photocopying or summarising notes is not likely to endear you to your employers. Try to maintain an enthusiastic outlook on things and always push yourself forward. Showing an interest in the work will bring greater reward later on.