I do apologise for my radio silence over the last few weeks, I’ve been very busy in my job gearing up to the company’s US launch, but I’m definitely making more time going forward to publish more work on my blog.
Recently, I had the opportunity to take part in a Q&A with Leila Mehio, founder of The Job Searching Expert blog (check it out here: http://jobsearchingexpert.com/author/leilamehio//). I’ve provided a copy of this below as I think that it will be both beneficial and informative for those of you starting or currently particiapting in an internship.
Enjoy the read!
What do you think is the hardest part of looking for an internship?
Personally speaking, I think the hardest thing about finding an internship is deciding where to begin the initial search. Given the developments in technology over the years, there’s a wide range of options available today in terms of actually sourcing positions. Be it online recruitment or job boards, company websites or social media channels, the search can easily become an overwhelming prospect. Thankfully, these options do exist and it very much comes down to the industry you want to work in and the type of internship you’re looking for. Through many trial and error attempts, you start to gain a fundamental understanding regarding the optimal ways of how and where to search for internships.
Do you think there are enough internship programmes out there?
As the interning industry continuously evolves, more options become available. Companies understand the importance of offering work experience to young people and the value it can provide to both candidates and an organisation itself. With such an influx of students and graduates flooding into the job market, it’s vital that internships continue to develop in order to meet demand. It’s also not always a question of whether enough programmes exist, rather of taking the initiative to source opportunities. For example, if an individual is interested in interning for a company and it doesn’t offer internships through it’s website, there’s nothing stopping you from picking up the phone and asking if you can do a placement with them. It might not occur to some businesses to hire interns, so it’s important you seize every opportunity out there by actively chase after what you want.
You wrote your book #interns – we do more than make coffee but do you think we are really giving interns the chance to develop, and not just to make the coffee?
In the majority of cases, I’ve heard positive stories from former interns regarding their accounts of work experience. More often than not, interns are given the chance to develop their knowledge and skills in a professional environment. I had a varied level of tasks throughout my four internships, which are detailed throughout the book, and whilst some of the work was arguably mundane, a large chunk was invaluable. If an intern doesn’t feel they are getting the most out of the situation, it’s up to them to take the initiative and initiate change by speaking with their line manager and voice their concerns. Of course horror stories will continue to circle, it’s sometimes easier to recall the bad over the good, but with stricter regulation on the work experience industry as a whole, companies are aware that they have to follow a code of conduct when it comes to the level of work interns are given.
Should interns be paid, or is the experience most important?
This is the question that’s posed to me most often, and the honest answer is that there is no straight answer. It’s an topic that has many branches and it would be difficult to provide a
simple yes or no. On the one hand, interns are providing companies with their time, and in the workplace, time is money. Arguably, there’s a grey area in terms of the work output that interns are permitted as they’re technically not supposed to carry out certain responsibilities at the same level as a paid employee. In this case, the work is technically on a learning and shadow basis, and so this is their return for the output. If all companies were made to, by law, pay their interns, the industry might well see a decline in opportunity and offerings, which is a definite negative. I had four internships, totalling almost a year of my time, for which I didn’t receive pay. However, I wouldn’t trade anything for the experiences that resulted from them as they ultimately led me to the position I’m in today. There’s nothing to say that you can’t intern and also work part time to fund this. With so many different structured programmes available, companies are often very accommodating and willing to work around your schedule, so there’s always a way to fit it in and around your other responsibilities. I think ultimately, all companies should at the very least offer expenses, be it travel pay, lunches or coffee on tap!
Where is the best place to look for an internship?
There are so many routes you can explore when searching for an internship. Be it internet job sites, company websites, networking opportunities, or back to basics via word or mouth, no one method should necessarily be favoured over another. It’s about personal preference and exploring the options available to you depending on the type of internship you would like to secure. I personally chose a mixture of internet searching and calling companies directly to
enquire about what placements were available. Vocal communication is important and a
human voice goes a long way.
Are internships of a week or less not valued as much as a longer stint?
I’d always recommend you try and secure at least two weeks of work experience at a time. One week may not be enough time to settle in, adjust and experience everything that a company has to offer. However, there is still the potential to learn in that time, and as long as you can demonstrate that knowledge on your CV, there’s no reason it should be devalued due to length .
What happens if someone has work experience in a field they then decide to not go into? How do they still sell their experience as positive and relevant?
An internship doesn’t necessary have to be industry specific. Remember that many skills are transferrable, and as long as you can identify which ones are suited for a particular role, you can sell any experience to a potential employer. My internships varied across market fields, yet each placement taught me something vital that I could use in the next. For example, proper
office etiquette, and working effectively within a team. It’s about learning to function in a
workplace environment and putting in the effort to gain that exposure. Employers look for
someone who both tries and who is visibly confident, so as long as you can justify the
relevance, there is nothing to say you can’t explore various industries and pick up new skills along the way.
Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions and remember to download #interns – we do more than make coffee here: http://amzn.to/1qhbEoJ
Until next time!