If you are a student who is almost graduating from school, or even if you are a recent graduate who is yet to find a job, it is quite a great idea to start by doing an internship.

An internship is a program where a potential employee joins a company for a short period of time – usually three to six months – with the aim of picking up relevant skills and getting exposed to various aspects of the company and the industry.

Doing an internship can greatly increase your chances of getting employed. According to a study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 72.7% of students who intern go on to receive a full-time job offer from the company where they interned.

Source: RISLA

Aside from getting hired by the company where you interned, doing an internship can also give you several other advantages. Below, let’s take a look at five good reasons why you should do an internship.

1. ALLOWS YOU TO BUILD YOUR NETWORK

As much as we all hate to admit it, jobs and career progression aren’t purely about merit. There is also an aspect of “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”.

Connections are everything. When you go for an interview, and there are fifty of you, all equally qualified for the job, and one of you is known to the recruiter, who do you think the recruiter will hire? The guy they know of course!

For that reason, we should probably change the above quote to “it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.” Do you see the difference? We all know people, but do people know us? Let’s break it down in a super-easy way. You probably know Beyonce, you have listened to a lot of her music, but does Beyonce know you?

That’s what networking is about – getting people to know you. If Beyonce knows you, that would give a huge boost on your brand and probably increase your chances of success – if you were in the music industry. Now take that same concept to the corporate world. The more people in your profession know you, the better your chances of getting opportunities.

If you have never worked anywhere, even as a volunteer, people in your industry will know absolutely nothing about you.

On the other hand, even if you are a fresh graduate, if you have an internship under your belt, you will have worked with people and built a reputation, and this people could be crucial to connecting you to new opportunities.

Reputation is very crucial in hiring and career progression. That is why recruiters always insist that job seekers provide referees.

If you have been an intern, you will already have people to vouch for you, such as your manager, supervisor, or boss at the company where you did your internship.

Similarly, you might go to a job interview to find that someone who worked at the same company where you interned moved to a new company and is part of the interviewing panel. If you had built a professional relationship with them, you have someone to vouch for you.

For this to happen, however, you will need to have created a good reputation during your internship. It is therefore important that you put your best foot forward during the internship. Ensure you get noticed by doing outstanding work.

You should be the intern who arrives on time, who is always neat and smart. Be that intern who finishes her tasks ahead of time. Be that intern who asks for feedback and acts on it.

Be that intern who continually improves. Be that intern who is always game for the given tasks and does not complain. Be that intern who is creative and able to come up with solutions to problems, a proactive intern. That’s the kind of reputation you want.

During your internship, cultivate relationships with your colleagues and with fellow interns as well. This is how you build a network. One day, you might need to call in a professional favor. The world is built on favors, especially in the business world.

Relationships also lead to collaborations, which could result in something amazing.

For instance, you could get together with some of the people you met during your internship and build a business together.

There is virtually no limit to the number of opportunities that you might have accessible to you simply by virtue of having a good professional network.

2. INCREASE YOUR KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS, AND EXPERIENCE

No matter how many books you read or how many classes you take, nothing beats on-the-job learning. Not even the best teacher in the world can give you the kind of deep knowledge and insight you can get from on-the-job learning.

Look at it this way. What you read goes into your head, but what you learn from experience goes into your heart. In other words, learning from books is a mental process, while experiential learning is emotional as well as mental.

This means that the knowledge and skills you acquire through doing become a part of you. You get to fully absorb and internalize that knowledge and are capable of retrieving it intuitively when you need it. If this sounds complicated, let’s use an illustration to break it down.

Let’s assume there are two drivers. One spends about 10 hours a day behind the wheel, driving.

The other reads about driving for ten hours a day. Which of the two do you think will have the quickness and presence of mind to navigate the car out of a sticky situation and prevent an accident? The first one of course.

You can’t learn how to drive from reading books. You have to get behind the wheel and drive. Similarly, there are things about your profession that you can only learn by experience.

This is why recruiters and employers prefer job candidates who have had some work experience. Many employers have tried untested job candidates and in many cases, they end up regretting the decision.

The main problem is that people who have zero work experience cannot hit the ground running. The employer often has to factor in a period of training.

If you have done an internship, you will already be familiar with what needs to be done in the work setting. You will at least be aware of the basics. You won’t have to go through that period where you have to ask for everything to be explained to you. That means you can start delivering right from the word go, which is exactly what most employers want.

The other thing about an internship is that it gives you the opportunity to test what you learnt in the classroom. It is one thing to study concepts in a classroom; it is quite another to apply them in real life.

For instance, if you study about marketing, nothing can prepare you for the real work itself of coming up with creative concepts and trying to woo the audience/market. The classroom won’t teach you the intuitive process of listening to the market.

During internship, you get to experience what you learned in school in a fresh and exciting way. Concepts and principles in a book might seem difficult, but in real life they come alive.

You are not learning about something abstract. Instead, you can actually see it happening in front of you. This gives you a much better understanding of what you learnt in school.

Internship does not just involve gaining better understanding of the knowledge and skills you have learnt in school so far. It also involves acquiring new skills.

Very often, the classroom does not teach every single skill that you need to succeed on the job.

For instance, if you are an engineering student, you might be taught how to draw buildings, but you probably won’t be taught how things like how to handle clients, how to negotiate your fees, and so on.

You can only pick up these skills out in the field. Internship provides you with a quick way to learn such skills.

3. AN INTERNSHIP COULD BE A GATEWAY INTO A JOB

Jobs aren’t easy to come by, especially at the entry-level. You might have noticed that most companies are asking for job candidates with a minimum of about 2 or 3 years of experience.

Such employers will not look twice at someone coming in with absolutely zero experience.

This has always created a sort of chicken and egg dilemma for graduates. You need experience to get a job, but you need a job to get experience.

Doing an internship gives you some sort of shortcut into getting experience.

Since getting a job a job without experience is a tall order, why not get the experience you need from an internship.

As we have seen, an internship allows you to learn things you would never have learnt in a classroom or from merely reading a book.

Employers understand that someone who has had an internship has already learnt most of the basics and therefore won’t need a lot of prior training before they can settle down in the job.

Doing an internship is therefore a great way to add some spice to your resume and cover for your lack of experience.

That said, it is important to be strategic about the company you pick for your internship. Ensure that the company (or the work you will be doing at the company) is relevant to your future career.

Think in terms of your future job applications. You want the future potential employers to look through your resume and see that the tasks you carried out during your internship period make you a good fit for the position you are applying for.

Keep in mind that the company you are interning at might also decide to hire you. This is in fact very common. Companies are highly likely to hire their best interns rather than go through the time-intensive process of doing interviews. There are several reasons why companies do this.

First, by doing so, the company saves the time and money it would have spent in carrying out the interview process. Second, the company saves the time and money it might have lost (opportunity cost) during the new hire’s acclimatization period.

This is the period when the new hire is still learning the ropes and may be prone to making a lot of mistakes and will need a lot of feedback and one-on-one training.

The intern does not need an acclimatization period. His or her whole internship has been the acclimatization period. The intern is already ready to work – and has been working! That’s why smart companies will snatch up their best interns quickly before they get better offers from other companies.

In addition, hiring an intern is a way of reducing risk. New hires are always a risk. When the company hires someone new, they are making a gamble.

That is because it is never certain whether this person will be effective at their job. They might turn out to be lazy or simply unreliable.

With an intern, there is less risk. That is because the employer has been observing you during your internship period. They know your strengths and weaknesses. They know whether or not you are a perfect fit for the position.

That’s why you should be on your best behavior during your internship period. Arrive on time, be diligent, and do outstanding work. If you are noticed for your exemplary work and behavior, the chances of you getting retained when the internship period ends are very high.

The relationships you form during your internship period can also get you a job at other companies.

For instance, if the company you are working at doesn’t have a job for you, one of your supervisors or colleagues who has taken a liking for your work you could recommend you to another company.

4. GET EXPOSURE TO A VARIETY OF DEPARTMENTS AND TASKS

The beauty of being an intern is that you get to do all sorts of tasks.

While this may not be exactly enjoyable, it is highly significant. This is how you build your competency muscle. You need to have a variety of skills for you to be properly competitive in the job market.

Recruiters and employers don’t look at what you know. They look at what you can do. A good indicator of what you can do is of course what you have done before. In the resume or CV, there is a section where you include the tasks and responsibilities you carried out in a particular position.

That is why doing an internship is so critical for your resume if you are an entry-level job applicant. It is a way to showcase your different skills.

In addition, if the recruiter wants to ascertain that you do have the skills you say you have, they can make a call to your referees and confirm that you do.

Since your internship supervisor or manager is probably one of the people you have put down as referees, the recruiter will easily get the information he or she needs.

The thing about skills, as we saw earlier, is that you can’t develop them to their fullest from reading textbooks or watching tutorials. It is very hard to develop them in a vacuum.

Using tutorials can help you acquire the basic skills, but only plunging into high-pressure situations can sharpen those skills and make them practical for the marketplace.

In the workplace, the tasks you work on come with deadlines, clear instructions, consequences, and so many other constraints and complications.

In the process of struggling against these complications, you operate from a higher level of instinct and creativity.

This ensures what you learn sticks in your mind more vividly and for longer compared to when you learn the skill from a tutorial.

Now consider what we have just said and multiply it by all the tasks you are expected to do as an intern. In a very short time, you are going to learn much more than you would learn at school or by yourself.

Pressure has a way of making us bring out our A-game. It intensifies our emotions, thoughts, and memory, and sharpens our clarity.

Aside from being assigned multiple tasks, as an intern, you might also be moved from one department to another over the course of your internship.

This is an invaluable thing, since it gives you insights on how the different departments within the company operate and relate, as well as the importance of each to the overall wellbeing and performance of the company.

Having multiple skills and experiences protects you from a cognitive problem known as domain dependence. That is when you are incapable of transferring skills or knowledge from one domain to another. In simple words, that means being unable to think out of the box. That happens a lot with people who do only one thing throughout their career, or people who stay in one department.

Having multiple skills and experiences allows you to see things from multiple angles. It gives you a fluidity you wouldn’t have if all you have is what you studied in the classroom. It makes you creative, which is a skill that is rated highly by employers and recruiters when looking for new hires.

5. MENTORSHIP

One of the best ways to ensure your career moves forward fast and in the right direction is to get a mentor. You can’t get a mentor in your profession by staying out of the workforce.

An internship brings you into a professional setting, where a mentor can spot you and take you under his or her wing.

Your mentor could be your supervisor, manager, a colleague, or even the top boss. A mentor is typically someone older and more experienced. They have been where you are right now.

For that reason, they can advise you on the best path to follow in the course of your professional journey.

If a mentor notices you are deviating from the path, they will caution you. If the mentor notices you are stagnating, they will give you a jolt. A good mentor is the accountability partner you need to keep you on track. Words from a mentor can inspire you to go the extra mile and change things in your life or career.

A mentor helps bring out your potential. A good example of a mentor in pop culture is Mr. Miyagi in the movie The Karate Kid. Mr. Miyagi became the mentor the young Daniel LaRusso needed to gain the courage and skill to fight his battles and solve his problems. That is what a mentor does for you.

They give you courage, wisdom, and sharpen you. They also push you into taking risks that are good for you – asking for that promotion, sending that job application, quitting the low-paying job, starting your own business, and so on.

The best time to get a mentor is in the early stages of your career, during your internship.

In some cases, a good mentor will even ensure that you get a job right after your internship is over. Even if there are no opportunities available at the company you interned at, your mentor can use their connections to open doors for you and get you a job at another company.

As you continue growing in your career, you can then develop this mentorship relationship into a real friendship, a partnership, or a collaboration.

WRAPPING UP

Internships provide you with so many opportunities, which is why it is very important to go through one.

It allows you to build your network, increase your knowledge and skills, it could potentially act as a gateway into employment, it gives you exposure to a variety of departments and tasks, and gives you an opportunity to get a mentor.

In other words, it allows you to lay a foundation that could be very crucial down the line in your career.

Therefore, if you get a chance to intern, you should take full advantage of it.

5 Big Benefits Of Doing An Internship

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