We’ve talked about internships a lot on this blog. It’s only natural. Throw a dozen twenty-something university students and recent graduates into one place and the topic is bound to emerge often. The internship culture has been making headlines quite frequently in recent times, and the questions and criticism that are being leveled at businesses are perfectly reasonable. There are some employers who exploit the system. There are also some who don’t.
Maybe I’m writing this post to try and make myself feel better about the fact I’m approaching the one year mark of unpaid work – or maybe I’m just writing it to prove that no matter how painful free labor can be, there are certainly benefits on offer.
1. Understanding office culture:
This is one of those things that really cannot be understood until it’s actually being experienced. There are no textbooks to prepare you for this, no amounts of old reruns of The Office that can be watched to truly get a knowledge of how things operate within those four walls. Working in an office environment is so fundamentally different to the retail or hospitality job that got you through years of eduction. There are a new set of rules to follow, a new set of lessons to learn – and no bigger terror than accidentally commandeering someone else’s coffee mug.
2. Time management:
I’m on the brink of graduating from a double degree. I’ve been at this university thing for nearly five years now. I’ve also been employed on a casual basis that whole time, with some weeks spent working 30+ hours on top of the full-time study load. I genuinely thought I knew all there was to know when it came to time management until I had to undertake it in a professional environment, with emails flying at from six different directions and what is sometimes a literal stack working needing to be done over the course of a day.
Securing a full-time job can sometimes be about the people you know – so being thrown into a place with dozens of young professionals, all with their own career aspirations (often quite big), is invaluable when it comes to selling your own brand. You’re going to meet a lot of people in those early days. Spend some time fostering these professional relationships. Make yourself memorable and there’s a very high chance they’ll remember you in the future. Get your name out there to as many people, as many times as possible.
Hey, most office kitchens come equipped with endless supplies of free tea and coffee – even the occasional biscuit plate if you’re lucky. If you’re undertaking an internship, there’s a very high chance this is the most financially awkward position you’ll ever be in, so take what you can get.
5. The experience:
I’ve saved the most cliche until last. No matter how frustrating the experience of working for free may get at times (middle of Winter with an hour-long public transport commute), there is absolutely no way to deny that in the current job market, internships are CV gold. They demonstrate strength of character, determination and commitment – three things that any workplace would love to have on board when it comes to tackling that job search head on.
Nobody’s saying you have to love the idea of giving away your time for free, but with the competitive nature of the current job market being the way it is, any opportunity that can be jumped on should be. Treasure your time interning. Make sure you’re getting just as much out of it as they are getting from you. Keep communication channels wide open, and when it’s time to move on, do so. Know that you’ve done yourself the greatest service possible when it comes to finding long-term employment. Take some free bagels on the way out.