[First posted on Leaderonomics.com on 1 September 2012]
[Updated: 25 August 2015]
Great way to get a real-world perspective
By BRIAN CHEAH
A few months ago, as I was studying at university, I pondered what would be an ideal first step to ensure my future success in my career. Sure, my degree (which I hope to complete soon!) would be critical for my future career, but I knew that there must be a better way to prepare myself for success in the future. Having a strong grade point average and being highly involved in campus life would be important too but there must be more.
So, I researched and found a new study by Millennial Branding which postulated that any “real world” experience is your ticket for the surest route to success. And in this study, they showcased that internships increase your probability of success in the workplace as they enhance your experience base prior to you landing your first position.
And so, I prepared my resume and locked in an internship. These past few months, being an intern at one of the most exciting social enterprises in Malaysia, has given me a completely different perspective on life and my career. An internship offers knowledge and lessons beyond the classroom that are invaluable in the real world. For instance, in school, if you make a mistake in a test or paper, it only affects you. This is the mentality that is engraved in the mind-sets of most students, and, it is this exact mind-set that creates problems in the workplace (as I found out much to my dismay!).
In all real jobs, mistakes are much more serious and have an immediate impact not only to you, but a number of other employees and potentially customers. An internship teaches you how to take your work seriously, handle mistakes correctly, and take responsibility to fix them; all lessons that will do me a world of good when I do land my first job.
In my brief stint as an intern here in Malaysia, I have learnt that the benefits of internships are as follows:
1. Gain experience in your field or industry
One of the best ways to learn about your field of study from a real-world perspective is through internships. While the classroom focuses mainly on imparting important information, there’s something different and exciting about implementing that information with real clients or customers.
As a result, you will be given the opportunity to apply the knowledge you’ve gained from the classroom in real life situations, thereby reinforcing these concepts.
2. Attain priceless work experience
Nowadays, it is rare that a university graduate can land an entry-level job without any prior work experience. With the help of internships, students can get this real-world experience while still in school. Internship programmes are a great way to give you real accomplishment stories for your resume and online profiles.
In addition, you will be able to develop and build upon some of your existing skills. Having a good set of skills will help you in future employment opportunities and give you an edge over your competition.
3. Determine if this path is the right one for you
In order to potentially avoid the cost of obtaining a degree you’re not interested in, working for a company in a related field will give you valuable insight into whether or not it is the right choice for you. It’s best to know as early as possible, and an internship can help you do that.
Internship experiences provide a valuable opportunity to showcase your skills and work ethics, and to prove your worth to a prospective employer. In the future, when a job opening occurs, you’ll probably be on the list of top candidates if you’ve impressed them. This is one great benefit of internships.
4. Develop valuable networking contacts
Another great benefit to completing an internship is the contacts you make. Networking is often one of the best ways to land a new job and to learn about unadvertised jobs. Your network of contacts will also help you obtain references for future job opportunities.
For example, your internship supervisor is an ideal reference for future job opportunities because he/she has had the chance to see your skills in action.
5. Experience the world of work
The first time you will probably ever experience the day-to-day work life in your field will be through your first internship. When you intern at a company, you’ll gain first-hand experience on what it’s like to work in an office, interact with supervisors and co-workers, and handle customers and clients. This helps ground you in a sense of reality.
6. Develop your communication skills
In the same study by Millennial Branding when employers were asked what skills they were looking for when hiring, the top answer, with a percentage of 98%, was communication skills. An internship teaches you how to communicate not only on issues related to work, but also on a social basis.
Many don’t realise the importance of communicating especially in the office environment which is different from university and to learn how to make meaningful conversations with people who are older and more experienced than you.
Developing this skill will indirectly grow your confidence, and make you an individual who stands out and carries himself well. It is a skill that will be very valuable in the future especially when meeting clients or supervisors from top management.