Completing internship – the first step from university life to professional world

What is an internship and what´s in it for me?

Usually internship means a certain period of time when a student or a graduate is working for a specific organization and they make an internship contract. The definition of internship  varies a lot depending on the person or the entity that is talking about it. Main purpose of completing internship is that the student will be able to gather professional experience of her or his own field of study and to utilize the knowledge from theory into practice.

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Sometimes employers use the term internship more generally, concerning the beginning of an actual work contract. In this case, internship period could mean a lower amount of salary before the employer and employee make the decision to write a full contract.

Internships have become a very common way to begin a career and to try out different possible positions. It is already quite usual in different universities to include an internship period (or even couple of them) into the study programme itself. In this case, a student will receive a certain amount of study credits by doing an internship. However, when the internship is part of your studies, the terms might be quite strict concerning the target organization, work tasks and the length of the internship.

It is also possible to do an internship on your own terms, for example during summer time or after graduation. In this case you can more freely decide what kind of position you would like to try out.

Mentoring and supervising

An essential part of an internship is that the intern gets some counselling and mentoring during the work period. Sometimes it is even an official part of the internship contract to name a supervisor or mentor for the intern. At least there should be an orientation in the beginning to get you on top of the game.

If you end up in a situation where nobody is telling you what to do, and you feel like you are not getting enough instructions, you need to stand out and ask for guidance. You may ask politely whether there will be someone who will have resources to instruct you throughout the internship, especially in the beginning.

How to find an internship position?

There are many ways to look for internship possibilities and it can be very area-related issue how easy or difficult it will be to find an internship position. These things also change over time along with the economic situation in the country. Internet is full of different local and global employment sites and that is one way to begin with the search.

Finding an internship position might cause you some headache, but don´t give up and try to follow your instincts.
Finding an internship position might cause you some headache, but don´t give up and follow your instincts.

You can also try to think outside the box and you might end up in more interesting positions. Here are some tips for the hunt for a perfect internship:

Use your networks

Talk to people around you about your situation and keep your eyes open. When you tell your hopes and wishes out loud, somebody might have you on their mind and spread the word for you.  Or if you have had a nice summer job in a nice company, be brave and ask if you could do an internship there concerning your own field of study. When you have already left a good impression before and you have background information about the company, it is more likely to be able to work there again.

Turn to your university

Some universities receive a lot of internship announcements from companies that are trying to attract the students. Universities tend to gather them up in portals or spread them out to students by newsletters. Sometimes universities offer various internship possibilities themselves, especially for their own students.

Internship interviews are sometimes similar to proper job interviews. Even if you feel nervous, try to be yourself.
Internship interviews are sometimes similar to proper job interviews. Even if you feel nervous, try to be yourself.
Follow your interests

You may look for internship possibilities also independently by going through different organizations you find interesting. Sometimes it is even better to suggest an internship deal with a company before they are looking for interns. In that case you don’t have to compete with other applicants and you can more openly present your own hopes and needs for the position.

When choosing a place to complete your internship, consider these variables:

  • Is it likely that you will get good networks and future job possibilities by working for that company?
  • Is it likely that you will learn new things?
  • Is the organization or company doing something you really believe in and you want to offer your work force for their cause?
  • Internship is always a good way to update your working skills!

What about the compensation?

The compensation of an internship depends on the line of business and the industry in general. It also varies in terms of the overall practices and the budget of the company. Sometimes the compensation can be something not so direct, for example supported meals, housing or flight tickets to the target city or country.

If you don’t receive any compensation from the organization you are doing your internship for, try searching for other funding options. In some countries, you may be able to receive study grants during your internship. There are also lots of different scholarships that can help you cover your living costs during your internship. Before applying for one, make sure to check whether the scholarship providers have some special requirements towards the internship placement!

Different scholarships can help you to cover your living costs during your internship.
Different scholarships can help you to cover your living costs during your internship.

The tasks of an intern

The tasks that are offered to interns vary a lot between different companies and organizations. Usually the assignments that are given to interns are not supposed to demand too much responsibility, because interns are still practicing the working skills. Even if the tasks themselves are challenging, they should be monitored by a supervisor. Interns should never have a feeling that they are solely responsible of causing any significant harm for the business or the reputation of the company.

In the beginning of an internship, your assignments might be very simple and even too easy for your skills. Try to be patient, because as the time goes by, you will receive more interesting and complex tasks. It is important to show respect and interest towards all the given duties, because they are important for the company. Also completing the simple tasks might be an effective way to get to understand the company a bit more. If the time goes by and the tasks remain the same, feel free to ask for new challenges. It is important to have the possibility to learn new things.

It is quite a common stereotype that interns are just at the office making coffee. Luckily that image has changed in time.
It is quite a common stereotype that interns are just at the office making coffee. Luckily that image has changed in time.

The length of an internship period

Internship periods vary a lot from really short ones to for example half a year internships. Usually it is considered better to have a longer internship, so that you will truly understand what the company is doing and to get ahead of very simple tasks to more interesting ones. Still, companies are not recommended to have too long internship contracts and they should always consider the possibility to properly hire the intern in the end.

Sometimes it is adequate to do shorter internships, for example when you are working for some specific project that has a beginning and an end. This happens often for example in the field of art and media. By doing several shorter internships you are able to try out many different things.

When internship is counted as a part of the study programme, universities usually have some specific requirements about the internship period.

What do I gain from completing internship?

One of the main benefits you can get of an internship are the networks and connections to the professional world.
One of the main benefits you can get of an internship are the networks and connections to the professional world.

There are loads of advantages in completing internship. On the side of your academic studies , an internship is a chance to gain more practical experience, so that it will be easier for you to start with your career. Here are listed some reasons why to complete an internship:

  • to gain hands-on work experience
  • to get an idea of the professional world in your own field of study
  • to use up-to-date programs and tools that are not available on campus
  • to build useful networks for your future career
  • to experience personal growth

Go ahead and read more about how to make the best of your internship.

Are you planning to do an internship abroad? Make sure to check that all your documents are up to date!

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Looking for an internship or volunteering placement abroad? AIESEC offers endless exciting options!