Internships have had a bad reputation in the past, as many employers have used them as a cheap way of getting unpaid labour. If you’re trying to think about what sort of work you should be doing during your breaks from university or free time after graduating, is an internship worth considering? Or is it better to get a paid job?
How Internships Work
Internships are also sometimes called work placements or work experience. Some internship arrangements will be classed as working, and in those cases you should be paid at least minimum wage. This doesn’t count if you’re on a sandwich placement as part of your course. There is also no rule about how long or short an internship must be, or how many hours per week you might have to work. Most employers will clearly set out their requirements at the start of the placement. Some employers might take on interns into full-time jobs after their placement is complete. However, you really shouldn’t bank on this and it’s better to think of the internship as a short-term placement. Anything more than that is a bonus.
Internship as a Link to Your Career
Most students want to get an internship which is directly related to the course they will be studying. Unfortunately, these can be hard to find. Some of the most prestigious internships have thousands of applicants for each place. There’s no harm in applying, but competition is fierce, so you are unlikely to be successful in most cases. You’ll have to be organised too - applications for internships open up months ahead of the placements. I recommend researching some companies you are interested in working with, targeting those who are big players in the industry related to your field of study.
What Skills Can An Internship Develop?
Taking on this sort of work experience is less about learning more about your university field of study, and more about getting practical work skills which can be transferred into other work settings. This is especially important for students who haven’t been working in part-time jobs while studying. Taking on a placement or internship can help you show teamwork skills, project management skills, and/or creativity, depending on the type of company you are placed within. It will also give you examples for those interview questions which start: “Tell me about a time when…”
Is Paid Work Better?
Thousands of graduates each year manage to get full-time work without having done an internship. Even if your experience is limited to voluntary work in a charity shop, you can still talk about teamwork, prioritising workloads or customer service. Paid work of any type proves you are reliable and trustworthy. A combination of a bit of work experience with some extra-curricular activities while studying will make you a more rounded and attractive candidate than someone who has just done their degree, plus a short internship. Look at the possibility of an internship if one is available, but don’t discount other opportunities too.
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