Picture this: you’ve just finished a course that’s prepared you for the world of work. You’re excited, nervous, and incredibly keen to dig your heels in and put your knowledge into practice. Only, the actual idea of hacking into your industry is kind of intimidating.
After all, the job market can be quite competitive. The most common avenue for entry into many industries, particularly those that are creative such as media, art and design and fashion is via an internship: a temporary position to help you gain the experience you’ll need to do the job you’ll want. The only trouble is that the process of getting an internship can feel just as scary.
We’ve all heard the stories about the struggling intern sent on the boss’ dry cleaning run, and the others about the competitive interview process. But don’t let that put you off: the right internship really can be an invaluable learning and networking experience that will help you get ahead in your field.
It’s true that competition for internships can be fierce, particularly in bigger cities like London. There are plenty of resources available to not only help find the right internship for you, but give you advice and tips to guide you through the entire process. For example, Inspiring Interns lets you upload your CV and send out a general application to all open positions in your field, as well as providing career and CV advice via video.
The truth is that when it comes to internships, there’s really nothing to be afraid of. Here are 10 reasons why.
1. More people than ever have got your back
It’s sadly true that exploitative internship stories exist. But as these stories come out, more and more people are becoming aware of this sort of thing and take active steps in stopping it. For example, organisations such as Intern Aware are actively making a splash about exploitation of interns at work. Plus, the UK is home to the most active interns’ rights campaign in the world. Make sure you go for internships which are clear and up-front about their terms, so you know what you’re getting into before you start.
2. You’ll learn how things work without the same degree of initial pressure
When you’re an intern, you’ll be exposed to the inner workings of your new company without being thrown into the deep end right away. Like a sponge, you’ve got the chance to soak up information from everything going on around you without the strict deadlines of your older colleagues. Ideally, you’ll have the chance to work on smaller projects from different staff members.
3. You have the time to decide whether or not you’re in the right field
An internship is designed to give you work experience in the field you want, before you commit to entering it. You aren’t tied to a full time contract, and are free to leave and pursue something else if you feel it’s not right for you. Armed with experience, you’ll be able to better make a decision for what you want, don’t want or want to try next.
4. Confidence comes from experience
Confidence is amongst the most sought after personality traits both in an employee and a person other people want to be around. Unfortunately, you can’t just pick it off a shelf: it’s got to be built. Feeling like you’ve got a handle on your prospective industry is the only way you’ll get a real sense that you know what you’re doing (and that you can continue to progress!).
5. You’ll learn names
Whilst it’s true you’ll start at the bottom of the food chain, you’ll still communicate and engage with those above you. Learn their names and keep an eye on what they’re up to: you never know how much these rudimentary networks might provide you with an ‘in’ as you later climb the ladder.
6. You always have a choice
If you feel you’re unhappy or uncomfortable, leave. You might be at the bottom rung of an organisation but you’re still a person with the capacity to make a choice, who is adding value to the company you work for. There’s nothing wrong with walking away.
7. Many big companies favour interns over external applicants
Think about it: if you were hiring someone to fill a position, who would you pick? Someone you already know is keen and is doing a great job, or take a chance on someone completely new? Keep an ear to the ground and don’t be afraid to speak up if you see an opportunity arise: your employer will appreciate your tenacity and enthusiasm.
8. You have nothing to lose
Don’t forget: an internship is meant to be a learning experience. Ask questions and take the chance to get involved in anything you’re allowed to be involved in. Where reasonable, ask if you can sit in on meetings or watch someone else complete a task, just to learn. If you’re helping add value to a company then there’s no reason why the position can’t work for you, too. And, as mentioned, if it all goes wrong, you’ve still gained the experience and knowledge. You just know now that it’s not for you.
9. Social media skills are the hot ticket
It goes without saying that social media is a key part of any company’s marketing strategy, no matter what field you’re in. Young 20-somethings are social media natives, and understand better than anyone how to engage with and target their own peers. Older employers know this, and are increasingly entrusting their digital profiles to interns. For example, Forbes magazine hired an intern who created a Pinterest page that went viral.
10. Even if you don’t get a job at the end, you’re still making progress
Fact. When another employer looks at your CV, they’ll see a list of skills and experience that weren’t there before.Plus, you’ll have plenty more to say for yourself in the interview.
Whether you want to work in journalism, business or IT, a good quality internship is nothing to be afraid of. Everyone has to start somewhere, and you’ll soon find that as soon as you gain some experience in your field that your confidence will soar.
Monica Karpinski received her BA (Media and Communications) and Diploma in Modern Languages (French) from the University of Melbourne, Australia. An art and culture aficionado, in her spare time Monica enjoys film, reading and writing about art.