Internships produce mixed reactions when discussed. Some believe they are critical for undergrads and the only path to securing employment after university. Others suggest that travelling during the long holidays can be an experience that is as valuable as working. However, travelling every holiday and never working during long breaks may make you worldly and well travelled and remember when it comes to the applying for a job you will be competing against others who have carefully curated their network and experiences making them a better fit in the employer's eyes. Of course, you may have got the travel bug out of your system while your rival could still be bitten.
A few fields will expect students to use their holidays to extend what they are learning at university into the real world while gaining practical experience. Whether it is an internship or working in a pub, everyone knows that genuine work experience is highly valued by future employers who like work-ready applicants.
We have spoken to a number of people regarding the merits and the value of internships and as a result, have the following advice:
- There is a difference between work experience and an internship.
- Work experience usually lasts a week or two. An internship generally lasts several months.
- Work experience is literally just that, an opportunity to see what it is like working in a particular field.
- Work experience students are likely to be allocated to an established colleague whom they shadow and therefore may be allowed to sit in on meetings which an intern would not be invited to attend. If very unlucky, those doing work experience could find themselves just on tea and coffee duty (N.B it is never a bad thing to occasionally offer to make tea or coffee for colleagues!).
- We hope that there will be a proper program in place that can educates the intern and help them develop their own skills while making a valuable contribution to the companies output.
- Interns should seek out internships that will extend their current learning, help them a deeper knowledge of their subject or gain appropriate practical experience.
- Interns should be paid, a minimum wage. The exception to this is that it is a compulsory part of their degree course.
- Anyone who regularly works for a company is classified as a worker and must be paid the minimum wage. Unpaid internships are not good practice.
- Apply for an internship with a company or organisation that you would be interested in working for at a later stage. A large number of interns find that if they have fitted into the company and its culture, they are offered full-time employment at the end of their internship.
- A CV that reveals a serial intern will worry future employers. They will want to know why you have not been employed by one of the companies you interned with.
- Be able to show how you grew and benefited from the experience.