Internships help you in several ways, but many students don’t really get the meaning of it. It’s about gaining practical experience in a real-world job setting. You might be interesting in a marketing company but you might end up in an aviation startup. However, that doesn’t mean you have taken up the wrong internship. In a startup, you not only learn about marketing but just about everything else that makes the business work. Therefore, you end up getting much more than you bargained for. Without further ado, here are the golden rules of internship. Read and re-read these steps to really get the most out of your practical work-life experience. It’s a crucial starting point, so get ahead of your learning curve by following these steps.
Don’t wait till university to get into an internship programme. Sometimes, it pays to start in high school itself. Not only will you learn a thing or two about what a full-time job really needs, you will also get to grips with crucial requirements like time management, discipline, focus, deadlines and responsibilities. Even more crucial is the fact that you will understand if the field you’ve chosen is right for you. If not, you can always opt for a different internship in a new segment the next time you get an opportunity. When you start young, you have more chances to try out many things before deciding which field is good for you. On the surface, some fields might appear glamorous or exciting. But the gruelling routine, like in a movie set, can disenchant some students for life. By taking up internships in high school, you sign up for a practical career guidance course.
Internships make you self-introspect like no other, if you know what you are looking for. Your strengths, weaknesses and motivations will come alive during your tenure. You could also come back confused and not knowing what to do further. But at least you learned something, so you could look for other options. Essentially, internships give you a 360-degree view of a job. It’s not just the work you do, but also the family you take care of at home and the loans you pay and the career goals you have set for yourself. When you learn these from the adults working in the office where you intern, you come back enlightened, and also overwhelmed. But importantly, this internship prepares you for the life ahead, so the future does not shock you anymore.
NOTHING IS A BURDEN
Agreed, some internships can be boring, monotonous and least inspiring. However, always look at the bright side. You are going there not to find a job, but to get a ‘feel’ of the job. You are not going to be spoon-fed on how to work, you are just supposed to work. There is no right or wrong here. You think on your feet, and do it. There are no promotions to chase or people to please. This unburdens you to do what you want to do or like to do. Similarly, don’t judge an internship based on whether it’s paying you or making you do all the grunt work for free. A better question to ask is if the experience is payment enough. If it’s not, then you know that this company or sector isn’t for you.
To avoid the disappointment cited in the previous point, it’s best to do some spade work. Find out if there is a supervisor who is in charge of the interns or will you be the foot soldier being used by everyone on the floor. Also find out if there is a limit to the number of interns they take, and if there is a specific format to what your work will involve. If the answers given by the office coordinator or manager aren’t well-structured, it’s a red flag that they have no system to manage interns. Avoid such offices. Similarly, look around the workplace and see if the company inspires confidence and has a sense of purpose and energy around it. If you like the vibes, you know the answer. Another way to find out is to speak to existing or previous interns, if the company can share their numbers with you. If that isn’t happening, you can google ‘(company name) internship reviews’ and check out what people have to say. Weed out the highly biased reviews because they are usually vindictive and individualistic and might not necessarily portray the true picture. Instead, look at reviews that appear more balanced and mature.
HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY
It’s important to be sure about what you want from the internship. To gain some clarity before getting into one, ask the company coordinator if they have a certain goal for you to fulfil and if they will give you their complete feedback after the internship is over. Similarly, don’t accept to do any work, just because you don’t know any better or because you are new to internship. Be honest and spare everyone the trouble by telling them that you are not capable of doing this but efficient in doing that. If you have questions, ask away. Don’t stop, because one error from you could send everyone into a tizzy.
Exceptional internships should not make you feel comfortable. They should challenge your intellect, keep you thinking all the time and leave you with many lessons to learn. When you are just starting out in life, it’s important to step out of your comfort zone and tackle every challenge that comes your way. Think of the internship as a never-ending obstacle course that you need to jump over, to figure out the rest of your life. Internship is your building block. Make the most of it and build your future. Good luck with everything.
Also published on Medium.