Graduates often used to worry that they needed a job to get experience, but they needed experience to get a job. It was an age-old quandary until a solution appeared: internships. Shorter, unpaid internships generally take place while you’re in school or college, during summer holidays or at mid-term breaks. Longer internships of six months to a year usually include a small stipend, and often have the potential to turn into full-time permanent roles if the intern makes a good impression.
Here, we look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of doing internships in the early stages of your career.
Pros of doing internships
1. Expand your network
The maxim ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ is particularly relevant at the beginning of a career journey. In many industries, networking and building new relationships is extremely important. Internships can be valuable opportunities to get to know leaders in the business, from the management at the place you’re interning, to their clients, to other important people you meet at corporate events.
You can give these people your business card and add them on LinkedIn, so that when you’re looking for a new job, you can get in touch with them again.
2. Find a mentor
In her best-selling book ‘Lean In’, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, talks extensively about how important good mentors are to a successful career.
By interning for someone who is happy to play the role of mentor too, you can gain much deeper insights into how your sector is run, you might find greater opportunities become available to you, and you’ll have a deep pool of experience to draw on when you need career advice.
3. Gain practical, hands-on experience and insight
There is a world of difference between studying marketing, human resources, law or healthcare and putting that knowledge into action in a workplace.
Internships can help young people get a stronger sense of what their strengths and weaknesses are, what they are truly passionate about, and areas they definitely do or do not want to spend the next 40+ years of their working lives on.
There is no substitute for real-life experience.
Cons of doing internships
1. It can be tough financially
Working for free – or for a small stipend – can be really difficult if you live in an expensive city. This is especially true of long-term internships that go on for several months; how are you going to pay rent and bills, or put food on the table during that time?
This can also mean that young people who come from affluent backgrounds and have parents who can support them through such internships can have an advantage over equally qualified people who don’t have that option.
2. It’s super competitive
It can be time-consuming and difficult to find a decent internship, and it can be really competitive, according to the People Per Hour blog. They suggest that instead of spending a bunch of time finding and carrying out an internship, a better way of showing employers that you’ve got real-life experience is to get out there and start freelancing while you’re looking for your first job.
For certain careers like in digital marketing, software development, copywriting, and other roles that can be carried out remotely, this option could be a great way of getting experience and getting paid for it. Simply sign up for an account on sites for remote workers, do great work and start watching the recommendations – and the money – flow in.
3. Finding the balance between learning and doing meaningful work can be difficult
While some offices are stuck in that old cliché of leaving interns photocopying and getting coffee, others pile work on, treating interns as though they were full-time employees.
It can be hard to get the right balance between being given enough responsibility to learn about the industry without being overwhelmed with work you haven’t been fully trained to do.
To avoid this scenario happening to you, do plenty of research before you apply at an organization. Check if they have a formal internship program in place, and ask questions about the type of work that will be expected of you. A new internships guide made by the HandMadeWritings Team will help you to avoid common mistakes and answer questions which may occur to you while applying.
In conclusion, internships today play a vital role, linking the education young people get at school and university to its practical use in everyday life. They can be fundamental in helping to decide what career path to take, and taking those crucial first steps on the corporate ladder.
Despite the drawbacks outlined, it’s a good idea to get some on your resume during college so that you can show potential employers that you’re driven and that you’ve got some real-life experience to offer. Choose where to intern wisely.
If internships aren’t an option for you financially, or you’re struggling to get a good one, freelancing is an alternative path to gaining experience you should consider.
About the Author:
Donna Moores is a blogger and a recruiter with more than five years of experience. She has gained her profound recruiter skills within the biggest industries and businesses. Now Donna sees her mission in sharing fresh info from the spheres of HR and career development. Get in touch …
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