Experience is becoming a crucial factor for employers when deciding who gets their foot in the door. It’s strongly advised that students and graduates take the opportunity to complete a period of work experience to ensure they have a competitive advantage over their peers; and that’s where an internship can make all the difference.
So, what actually is an internship?
An internship is a period of work experience offered by an employer to give students and graduates exposure to the working environment, often within a specific industry, which relates to their field of study.
Internships can be as short as a week or as long as 12 months. They can be paid or voluntary; however, before you start an internship it’s important to know your rights with regards to getting paid.
Internships can be done in a range of sectors, including sales, marketing, engineering, graphic design, management, I.T. and many, many more. Throughout an internship you will develop a variety of soft skills, including communication skills, personal effectiveness, presentation skills, creative problem solving and influencing skills.
‘On-the-job’ experience can be as valuable as anything learned in your studies. After all, you cannot really understand what a job is all about until you have worked in that environment. Internships are great opportunities to speak directly to people who have experience in the role you aspire to; and their knowledge of the job and working environment will give you a greater understanding of what it’s all about and what you need to do to progress.
Your career aspirations may change when you’re faced with the true realities of a role. Internships can therefore be used as a ‘try before you buy’ option, before you embark on a career and confirm if this is what you want to do in the long term.
An internship can give you a real insight into the world of work, allowing you to build on the theory you learned at university and helping you to gain practical skills that will help strengthen your CV and make you more employable. Internships offer you the chance to test your skills in real-life situations, explore your career options and gain an insight into an organisation or career path.
What are the long-term benefits of doing an internship?
Following a successful internship itis not unusual for employers to make a full-time job offer to their intern. Many employers use internships as a trial period and will already have plans to recruit on a permanent basis. Therefore, it’s vital that you make a good impression; turn up on time, be enthusiastic and show your flexibility, adaptability and commitment.
Results from a recent survey conducted by Graduate Advantage prove that internships do create jobs for graduates. It showed that 81% of interns are now employed and 74% of those are either in permanent employment or are on a long term contract. Of these, 68% believe their internship helped them to gain their current position and an impressive 33% are still working with their internship organisation.*
Michael Ellender of Birmingham Forward said of his internship: “I am a very proactive person and was keen to only take a role where I could use my graduate skills. In my experience, if you are willing to show initiative, enthusiasm and work hard, you will be given further opportunities to develop. I was pleased to stay on after the placement and have now been promoted to a higher level role that I enjoy.”
Written by Graduate Advantage
Graduate Advantage arranges paid and voluntary internships across the West Midlands. It is a not-for-profit organisation. The project aims to create over 1,400 graduate internships with the long term goal of boosting business performance to help the local economy.