Growth

The importance of internships

Maeve Hunt Maeve Hunt

In an era of intense global competition, securing a graduate position is a big challenge. However, there is one way for graduates to make themselves stand out from their peers, and that is by doing an internship.  Employers now tend to focus their recruitment efforts on graduates who have undertaken at least one internship, as they view these candidates as having displayed the initiative and commitment to their chosen career that the employer is looking for.

From an employer’s perspective, an internship is a work placement or temporary job lasting anything from a week to a year. It can be paid or unpaid and usually has more focus on training than a normal day job.  It is clear that internships are now invaluable to both employers and graduates.

Large corporate employers are now using their intern programmes as their key recruitment tool, with job offers made as a priority to those graduates who impress during their placement.  Indeed the goal of some savvy students is to gain enough relevant work experience and intern placements in their initial years at university to enable them to get on the intern programme run by their employer of choice in the summer before their final year.

From a student’s perspective, gaining an internship in multiple workplaces has several advantages, (not only if it is required from your current education pathway).  For some it can help secure their chosen job with their chosen employer.  However, not everyone is as certain from an early stage what career they wish to follow.  The diverse experience that internships can provide in working in different industries or for different companies / organisations can be invaluable for deciding on your final career path.  Gaining an internship may also help employees who are looking for an opportunity to switch to a career that is not relevant to their current degree.

There are some things to consider when designing an intern programme. Employers should avoid choosing students solely from larger universities, and potentially missing out on good graduates from smaller universities.  Another consideration is the time commitment for the employer, to ensure they put a programme in place that has a proper structure, including a mentoring system, and provides an offering to the interns that is meaningful and challenging.  This process must be regularly reviewed, monitored, and assessed.

However, internships still appears to be a ‘win win’ situation for both employers and students. There is no doubt that the advantages to employers of having a programme in place is being rewarded with enthusiastic, experienced graduates who are well-informed and well-equipped to deal with a professional working environment. It is an excellent way to see first-hand a potential employee’s true qualities, and where they would be best placed (if at all) within the organisation.

Students also have the opportunity to accrue the skills and network to secure a good job and potentially see if their career choice is the one for them. In theory students have the ability to study what they love and intern in what they want to do.  It is the ideal way to kick-start their training towards their long- term career. As they say, ‘an expert in anything was once a beginner’, and being able to guide a student on their career path is an important role for employers to embrace.

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