I’ve met university students with resumes that were five pages long. These guys tried to cram in at least two or three internships during their long holidays each year, and by the end of their fourth year they had interned at more than 10 companies.
Based on conventional wisdom, most of these kids would have secured job offers prior to graduation. But even if your internship does not result in an attractive job offer, here are some ways they can benefit you nonetheless:
Make professional connections
Being an intern doesn’t necessarily mean that you are confined to menial jobs that require no brain activity at all. How much responsibility you are entrusted with is ultimately in the hands of your boss, but if you lack the requisite technical knowledge or qualifications, your chances of getting to do “real” work diminish.
However, if you have a memorable personality or are able to establish close ties with your bosses and the other employees at the office, you are effectively making valuable connections with people who will be your seniors in the industry.
When you enter the working world, these people will either be in a position to hire, or will know people who are. If you’ve got a winning personality and the ability to make friends, you will be remembered.
Tip: Be nice to everyone at the office, not just your boss. Don’t be too intimidated to start conversations (when people aren’t busy with work, of course) or to ask other employees out for lunch, and make the effort to keep in touch when you leave the company.
Figure out if you like the job or industry
Many university interns are so focused on getting a job offer that they forget that an internship is also a chance for them to evaluate the job or industry. Fail to do that and you become one of those unhappy, unfulfilled workers who then lash out in opinion polls about how miserable their jobs make them.
If you’re like this intern who got punched by his boss and are enjoying your job even less than you enjoyed taking the PSLE or O levels, the onus is on you to evaluate how suitable the job or industry is for you. If you’re still a student, you have the time and energy to explore other career possibilities. Don’t waste that chance.
Tip: Instead of spending all your time socialising with the other interns or surfing Facebook, consider your internship a test to see whether this job can fulfil your requirements for a future career. Take every opportunity to observe other employees and learn about the kind of work they do, imagining yourself in the same position.
Chalk up work experience and get hired faster
Even if your internships do not result in a job offer, that doesn’t mean they can’t help you get hired faster. As a fresh grad, one big hurdle you’ll face is not having the requisite experience. Employers in search of a junior hire often specify the need for 1-2 years of experience so they won’t have to spend a lot of time training someone who knows nothing.
The experience chalked up during an internship can contribute to a potential employer’s perception that you’re not that clueless. In fact, if you’ve taken on a long internship of between 6 to 12 months and had a chance to do real professional work (as opposed to helping your boss sort out his business cards or decorating the office for the company’s annual Christmas party), many employers will count that as actual work experience.
In fact, based on a recent news report about interns who are getting paid big bucks, landing a great internship could even be equivalent to starting your career a year early.
Tip: When it comes to amassing work experience, undertaking longer internships of between 6 to 12 months will help you much more than touch-and-go stints of 1-3 months. Make sure you’re doing real professional work, and document the details of your projects in your resume.
How have you benefitted from undertaking internships? Tell us in the comments!