7 Reasons why you should do an Internship

An internship is a short-term work placement often available to students to experience working at a firm, organisation or government department/agency in their area of study. Internships may be paid or unpaid and vary in length but are a fantastic opportunity for students to gain relevant experience and a unique opportunity for learning outside of the academic setting.

Formal internship programs are advertised every year through Graduate job boards such as GradConnection, GradAustralia but students can also find advertised internships on job boards such as SEEK or LinkedIn by including the keyword ‘ internship’ in the search field.  Students should also consider approaching small to medium organisations directly, or through a personal contact, to request an informal internship.

Here are 7 reasons why you should seek out an internship

1. Increase employment opportunities after graduation

Completing internships during academic study is known to greatly increase the prospect of getting employed soon after graduation.  Many large firms and organisations such as Big 4 firms, engineering, legal or management consulting firms use the internship program as a way of selecting the best candidates for graduate positions. For example, out of 30 graduate positions, often over half will be filled by students who have already successfully completed an internship with the firm and are already known to the employer.

2. Build your resume

Graduate employers are seeking candidates with as much work experience as possible in addition to solid academic results. Candidates who have completed part-time work in customer-facing roles such as hospitality or retail are highly desirable but those who have also completed internships in their relevant field of study will stand out from other candidates. Having internships on the resume demonstrates a genuine interest in working in that career area and also that the student has been pro-active throughout their academic studies.

3. Test out a career area

Internships can also be a fantastic way to explore different career areas to help a student decide on a future pathway. This can be particularly useful for students who are studying a broad degree such as Arts, Science or Commerce or even studying a double degree where they need to decide between a career in say Law or Commerce. If students are fortunate enough to complete internships in a range of career areas such as Audit, Law, Management Consulting or Banking, then they will often feel much more confident about pursuing one career pathway after completing several internships.

4. Build a professional network

Completing internships also enables students to start building a professional network in the early stages of their career. Even if a student doesn’t secure a permanent role after completing an internship, spending a few weeks or months working in an organisation often allows them to start building some useful connections that they can continue to build and nurture over the course of their career.  Likewise, professional contacts built during the course of an internship can often vouch for candidates when applying for future roles and can provide a great reference to potential employers about the specific skills and experience that the student developed during the internship.

5. Develops skills

A key advantage of completing an internship is the opportunity for students to develop relevant and practical skills that are often not taught in an academic setting.  Technical skills such as financial modelling or IT/software skills can be developed in an internship as well as transferable skills such as research, administration, business writing, time management, teamwork and relationship building skills.

6. Builds confidence

Internships also help students build confidence working in a professional setting as well as communicating and building relationships with more senior professionals. Often starting your first job in a corporate setting can be quite daunting but with a few internships under the belt, graduates are likely to feel much more confident starting their first job and liaising with other professionals in a more professional environment.

7. Clarifying whether you are on the right track

An internship provides real-life experience and an introduction to the typical work tasks and work environments that someone might experience working in that line of work. Often an internship can also provide clarity to students who have some doubts as to whether they are on the right track. Even a negative internship experience may help a student decide whether they wish to continue with their studies in that area. Often the reality of a job is very different to what we anticipate it to be in an academic environment, but it is better to learn this sooner rather than later.
Internships offer many benefits to students, but students also need to be wary that they are not taken advantage of by employers who regard internships as an opportunity for free and easy labour rather than a genuine opportunity for a student to build skills and experience. Students need to be wary of any long-term unpaid internships especially in areas such as media, public relations, not-for-profit and the arts which are often more competitive areas for graduates to get their first role.  If you are unsure if you are being taken advantage of, then seek advice from a more senior person in that industry as to whether the terms of the internship seem fair and reasonable.

Written by CGA Careers Expert – Leah Lambart

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