Monday, 16 September 2013

Give up your summer holiday and do an internship

This post is for university and college students around the world who are going into any profession that is the least bit competitive.  If you are guaranteed a job at the end of your degree (e.g. a dentist or a doctor) then you can ignore this post but for all you other university students this is the best advice I can give you.

Whether you are doing a 2 year, a 3 year or a 5 year degree - it doesn't matter - you should be trying to do as many internships as possible.  They are valuable for many reasons (which I will outline below).  They increase your career prospects and more importantly will help you work out whether you actually like what you are doing.

Although you may regret giving up a summer, or several summers as I did, the value you get out of it so great that I do not regret it one bit.  If you have not thought about summer internships before or you think you can leave it until later in your degree, I encourage you to read on and see the benefits of doing an internship.

An internship offers you an ability to 'road test' your career

One of the most important things that an internship does is allow you to work out whether this is the career that you actually want.  Most times when we go into a university degree we have some idea of what we want to do theoretically however have no idea what it will actually be like.  At best you may have spoken to someone or have seen your parents do that job but the chances are that you would never have experienced it.

I studied law and seriously considered becoming a lawyer until I did a summer job at a law firm.  I decided pretty quickly that this was not something that I could do day to day.  It was just that I didn't enjoy the job and I didn't enjoy what I was doing.  If I had never done that summer job I'm not sure if I would have come to the conclusion as quickly and started thinking about other jobs.

An internship allows you to road-test the firm that you are working at

If you are lucky enough to land a job at a top tier firm in the industry that you are looking to go to, the internship allows you to see whether you
like the culture of the firm as well as evaluating how you get along with the other staff.  In most careers the people you work with determine what your working experience is like and so it is important to work with people you get along with.

I was lucky enough to land an investment banking internship at a bulge bracket firm and I found that I really liked the people that I worked with as well as the general culture of the place that I was at.  It gave me more comfort around joining that particular firm, especially when I had several job offers for a full time job.

An internship makes you more employable

This is one of those realities of job hunting that can't be avoided.  A firm is always more likely to hire a college graduate that has intern experience (especially at a top tier firm or at the firm itself) than someone who has just done a degree.  You are always going to do better at interviews because you can say what you actually enjoy about the job and why you like it rather than speaking in the abstract with no experience.

When I was on the other side of the table and recruiting I always found that those who had done more relevant internships had a better idea of the job and were more able to answer questions than those who had not.  The fact is that an internship makes it easier for you to land a job later on.

An internship allows the firm to road-test you

Just like you are road testing the firm that you are thinking about working at, the firm is also seeing whether you fit in with them.  If you do and they like you then you are much more likely to land a job with them than some stranger who they have never worked with and do not know.

Note that this can be a double edged sword.  If you do not perform during an internship or are not easy to get along with then this actively works against you.

Even irrelevant internships are helpful when it comes to recruiting

I did 3 summer jobs over my 5 year university degree, 2 of which were 'official' internships.  All of these were in different jobs and industries as I tried to work out what I wanted to do with my career.  However I noticed that as I did more of them, it became easier to get job offers in other industries.

The more work experience in a corporate environment you get (even if it is not directly related to the new job you are applying for) the better chance you have of landing the next job.  It all has to do with your employability and if you can get good reviews from these internships (even if they are just verbal reviews) then you can use this to leverage your new internship and eventual career.

Don't work just to earn it to further you career

Internships offer more than just the possibility of earning some cash during your holidays.  As mentioned above it helps you hone your career as well  as improve you career prospects.  Do not waste your summers at a job which isn't going to help you.  Even if you get paid less (or even nothing at all) do an internship.

In the next few weeks I will post about how to land an internship especially when you are not in your penultimate year as well as how to act in an internship to increase your chances of getting that coveted job offer.

You May Also Be Interested In:
What NOT to do after an internship
Tips on how to motivate yourself after leaving college or university
Getting a job in Investment Banking: overview
Investment banking: how bad is it for your health?

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