As competition for graduate jobs increases, students must think of new ways to differentiate themselves from all other equally qualified and trained candidates. One of the most efficient ways to do this is through internships. Graduates who have relevant work experience tend to be more valued by employers, and this makes internships an attractive prospect. Internships can be done in a variety of sectors, including sales, marketing, engineering, graphic design, management, IT, and 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.
The Experience and its Value
Experience "on the job" can be as valuable as anything you have learned in your studies. After all, you can't really understand what a job is about until you've worked in that environment. Internships are great opportunities to speak directly with people who have experience in the position for which you aspire; and your knowledge of the job and the work environment will give you a greater understanding of what it is all about and what you need to do to progress. Your career aspirations can change when faced with the true realities of a position.
Therefore, internships can be used as a "try before you buy" option, before embarking on a career and confirming 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 develop the theory you learned in college and helping you acquire practical skills that will help you strengthen your CV and make you more employable. Internships offer you the opportunity to test your skills in real-life situations, explore your career options, and learn about an organization or career path.
What is an internship?
An internship is an opportunity offered by an employer to potential employees, called interns, to work for a company for a fixed period of time. Interns are typically college students or students, and most internships last between one month and three months. Internships are typically part-time if offered during a college semester and full-time if offered during vacation periods. An internship should give you practical skills, work experience, and increased knowledge of that industry, in exchange for the employer benefiting from your work.
What are the characteristics of an internship?
An internship can be paid or voluntary. The trend is increasingly (and rightly so) towards the former, as voluntary internships are often cited as exploitative. Unsurprisingly, internships that pay well are usually the most competitive. After a successful internship, it is not uncommon 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 hire permanent staff.
Therefore, it is vital that you make a good impression; Be on time, be enthusiastic, and show your flexibility, adaptability, and commitment. Results from a recent survey by Graduate Advantage show that internships create jobs for graduates. It showed that 81% of the interns are now employed and 74% of them have permanent employment or a long-term contract. Of these, 68% believe that their internship helped them obtain their current position and an impressive 33% are still working with their internship organization.
How is an internship different from an apprenticeship?
Learning and its characteristics
It is important to differentiate between an internship and an apprenticeship as they offer quite different experiences. An apprenticeship is a dedicated vocational program that combines work-study-based training to earn an NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) or a basic degree. Apprentices generally spend four days a week with your employer and then one day at the training center, where they will work on building your portfolio to achieve your NVQ. Traditionally, apprenticeships were reserved for commercial occupations such as construction or planning.
More recently, apprenticeships are being offered in a growing number of industries, from accounting to marketing. Apprenticeships can be a valuable route to employment, as apprentices often remain with your employer once they complete your professional training, naturally progressing to a higher position. Perhaps most importantly, an apprenticeship is a paid program where you will earn at least the national minimum wage or apprenticeship rate based on your age.
Most Significant Differences
Generally, an apprenticeship will last between 12 and 18 months, although this depends on the level of the qualification. In contrast, an internship does not result in any formal qualifications and is often for a much shorter period of time. And as mentioned above, not all internships are paid. Perhaps the most significant difference between an internship and an apprenticeship is the commitment it takes from you to complete them.
Apprenticeships are long-term and you will need to commit to a program for at least 12 months to earn your qualification. Internships, on the other hand, are more flexible and allow you to try out different companies, work in different roles, and really explore an industry in depth. This can be beneficial if you are not really sure in which direction your career is heading. Another factor to consider is your area of expertise: some industries are better suited for internships, while others are better suited to apprenticeships.
Why do companies offer internships?
Companies offer internships to students for a variety of reasons:
Internships provide employers with cheap (and sometimes even free) labor, for what are generally low-level office tasks such as photocopying, filing, simple work with spreadsheets, or report writing. Many companies hire interns for several weeks or months to help with the completion of a major project or event. This can be great for students, because it can really help you develop and demonstrate skills in project management, problem solving, and customer relationship management. Even if the internship is short, it can still equip you with a variety of transferable skills and help you network and build valuable connections in the industry. Also, it looks good on your CV.
Employers often use internships as an effective way to advertise their graduate plans to students. Surveys indicate that nearly half of all graduate employers hire at least 20% of their former interns for training programs. Graduates are likely to return to the organization that hired them as interns for full-time employment after leaving college. Hiring former interns after graduation is advantageous for employers, as these graduates already understand the company and the work they will be doing. Former interns require less training than new candidates, saving time and resources.
3 ways to find an internship
Now that you know what an internship is, you may be wondering how you can find one. Here are three ways to find internship opportunities.
Utilize campus resources
If you're a student, go to your campus career center and find out how to attend career fairs and participate in on-campus recruiting. There may also be student job boards at your university. These employers are specifically looking for students from your school! Make the most of that college connection and take advantage of how convenient it is for employers to come to you.
As you probably guessed, there are tons of resources online too, including, of course, The Muse, featuring job postings and internships alongside company profiles to help you learn about organizations and their culture. Searching online can be really overwhelming, so it is best to have an idea of what you are looking for, such as "product management practices" or "editorial practices". It's contradictory, but the more you narrow your search, the more manageable it will be. You can always stay open to other opportunities as the process unfolds, but start with a clear goal.
See your favorite organizations
Todo el mundo tiene un par de empresas de ensueño. Si no estás seguro exactamente del tipo de pasantía que deseas realizar, otra dirección que puedes tomar es consultar primero la empresa. Ve directamente al sitio web de tu empresa de destino y ve qué tipo de programas de pasantías y oportunidades ofrece. Si encuentras uno que pueda ser adecuado, ¡solicítalo! Después de todo, uno de los principales beneficios de una pasantía es ayudarte a descubrir qué quieres hacer después de la graduación.
Start looking early
Find out when the industry hires. In general, the larger the company, the earlier they start the process for the next term's internship class. If your school has a career fair, that's a great place to start your search. Smaller companies have a harder time projecting workforce and therefore tend to hire closer to when they need someone to get started. That could mean that applications must be submitted any time between January and March for a summer internship, so be sure to check deadlines in the fall, even if you're targeting smaller organizations.
Get your resume and cover letter in shape
You may feel like you have a lot of experience to write about, but as long as you keep an open mind about what the "experience" encompasses, like course assignments, hackathons, volunteer projects. or other extracurricular activities, you may be able to prepare an attractive application.
Prepare for those interviews
It can be tempting to improvise, especially since interview invitations can often make them sound like casual conversations. Don't be fooled. Go over common internship interview questions and practice answering them out loud. You don't need to memorize your answers, but definitely practice them. Make sure to do a little research on the company - what it does, what it is currently working on, and what its culture is like. If you want to be more prepared, dig a little deeper to see what their interview practices are like and what questions they ask. Lastly, if possible, try to learn more about your specific interviewers on the company website, LinkedIn, or other professional pages. Use all of your research to generate relevant questions to ask at the end of the interview.
Use your network
If you are a student, contact professors, alumni, and your career center. Let people know what kind of internship you are looking for. Create a list of companies that interest you and start finding people to reach out to through LinkedIn or your school's alumni database. Also apply online to make sure you don't miss any deadlines, but keep meeting people and conducting informational interviews to get advice on your search. You can even find yourself in an impromptu interview and land the internship of your dreams. Networking is often a more labor-intensive approach, but it also tends to result in a better fit than just applying randomly. Even if it doesn't pay off directly in your internship search, one day you'll be glad you started developing your network early in your career.