I have been giving a lot of thought to the value of internships over recent weeks as I strive to improve the experience for our existing and future interns. The key question that I have been asking myself is: what is the true value of an internship?
Internships were not common in the UK when I went to school and my involvement of hiring and developing interns in France was limited to two college graduates who worked with me during the summer. So, over the course of the last year I have spent time observing our interns as well as meeting with students who have talked to me about their aspiration to kick-start their professional careers through an internship. Here are three simple conclusions that I have come to:
An internship is a “playground” for students to discover what they like and dislike.
As an intern, you will have the opportunity to work with lots of different people touching various types of work. Inevitably, you will like some areas more than others, but that is ok. This is valuable information to use when conducting job searches upon graduation so that you find the right professional opportunity as you embark on your chosen career. The key is never to refuse work or an opportunity to try something new – you never know what you will like or dislike until you try it!
An internship is a learning experience for both the student and the company.
Students have a unique opportunity to put classroom learning into practice and to take “real world” experience back to school during an internship. Moreover, other valuable skills can be gained such as learning how to present yourself at an interview, how to interact with professionals at different levels and how to “dress the part.” Remember, though, that learning is not a one way street. You will arrive at your internship with fresh knowledge and fresh ideas about your chosen profession or industry. You should share this knowledge and these ideas with your new co-workers as they strive to innovate and increase their competitive advantage in the marketplace.
An internship could open doors. Having an internship not only allows you to get a feel for the company, it enables co-workers, managers and recruiters to get to know you. Use your internship to build up a good reputation for being a team player who is reliable and flexible and who does good work. You never know, these traits could open the door for a more permanent position!
Chris Roberts is Director of Human Resources at WeiserMazars LLP, Long Island Practice