<a href="https://capital-placement.com/author/vinay/" target="_self">Vinay</a>


Co-founder and CEO of Capital Placement, a London based global internship programme provider, making international internships easier and more accessible for university students and recent graduates.

Right now there are more graduates than ever entering the job market, with every student making on average 7.5 applications per job. Some graduates we’ve heard from tell us about the vital skills they’ve learned from doing unpaid internships whilst others have told us about what a waste of time their paid internships were. So which one are you better off doing or is there even a point in doing one? I mean how much can they really help you in landing your dream job?

Students often get paid placements through university and it sounds great right? But some students have had experiences they’ve felt be a waste of time. They complain about often being given no work to do at all, and feel like their time is used very inefficiently as well as not allowing them to learn any new skills or to grow their current ones. This is not always the case and completely depends on where you’re working. Other students have told us how it helped them gain interpersonal skills. Some students were able to shadow industry experts in their day-to-day lives to really get a sense of the industry, learning skills from the very best.

Many believe unpaid internships allow companies to take advantage of their interns and over-work them as they think of it as very cheap labour, getting them to do a lot more menial tasks or overload them with work that won’t provide them with valuable experience. This has not always been the case with unpaid internships. It doesn’t sound very appealing at first, but it allows you to gain first-hand practical experience in your chosen field. It can really open your eyes and help you to determine whether you really want to pursue it or if it’s just something you thought you wanted. Interns have told us about all the invaluable skills they’ve learnt during their unpaid internship, they have also told us about how its been a vital leg up in their career.

So do we really need an internship? In a guardian report it tells us graduates in the population have increased from ‘17% in 1992 to 38% in 2012, the fear is that the university degree has been significantly devalued’ as employers are putting more value for relevant work experience. It seems almost like a requirement now to have an internship to be able to stand out and compete for graduate jobs. Some students are actively taking on unpaid internships, up to four at a time just to be able to add relevant experience to stand out. By having work experience employers feel like you will be able to pick up the work very quickly and require less effort from them for training, which is a cost many businesses are looking to cut and make more efficient.

One of the common mistakes people make is to not start their search for jobs or internships early and realise later that they could have started much earlier. The process has becoming fairly rigorous as more people are trying to get internships to add to their CV before they apply to jobs. Many internships end with job offers so if you are able to get one, make sure to work to the best of your ability and really make it count!

It’s not a stretch to say internships have become indispensable. The competition for jobs has never been stiffer. When making hiring decisions, Capital Placement notes, employers will lean heavily towards students who have at least some internship experience under their belts. 

So, what does an intern do exactly?

Contrary to popular belief, completing an internship isn’t easy. If you think internships are about fetching coffee for everyone and generally riding on the team’s coattails, toss your expectations out the window. Modern intern roles – even the support kind – are as taxing and responsibility-ridden as full-time jobs!

It’s important you enter your internship with the right mindset. If you don’t know what to expect from your internship role, you’ll be better prepared and know what you need to do to succeed. Also, carrying out your intern responsibilities successfully will assist you in building up a potent skillset. 

What is an intern? 

An intern is a trainee who has signed on with an organization for a brief period. An intern’s goal is to gain work experience, occasionally some university credit, and always an overall feel for the industry they’re interning in. 

Internships may be paid, partially paid, or unpaid. The engagement period may range from a handful of weeks up to 2 years. With longer-term internships, you’ll almost always be compensated in some way. The compensation may include a monthly wage, accommodation, travel expenses, and a food allowance. 

Many companies require you to complete an internship with them before they even consider you for a full-time role.     

What does an intern do?

So what does an intern do exactly? That depends on the industry in question and the kind of internship you’ve signed up for. Research internships come with a different set of roles and responsibilities than, say, an internship geared toward easing you into a full-time role. 

An intern is primarily a support role – at least in the beginning. When you join up, your main job will be to assist, learn, and grow. After you’ve settled in, you’ll be expected to pull your own weight. 

Here’s a general overview of the work you can expect to do as an intern:     

1. Assist in day-to-day tasks

As an intern, don’t expect to spearhead a critical project anytime soon. But that’s by no means a bad thing. You’ll be groomed to spearhead projects in the future. Your boss will give you general errands to educate you on to the ins-and-outs of the organisation, to gauge your general skill set, and also to bring your skills up to par.

Here are some day-to-day intern roles and their responsibilities:   

  • Performing clerical duties: It’s almost a guarantee you’ll be taking memos, maintaining files, organising, sorting, creating PowerPoint presentations, drafting reports, and the like.
  • Managing social media and emails: You may be asked to handle the company’s social media accounts, write emails to customers, talk to clients on the phone, and similar duties. 
  • Event handling: Interns are often asked to oversee the scheduling of appointments, organising conference rooms, and taking care of the food and drink.   
  • Research: Interns fresh from a university education have a great deal of up-to-date knowledge. Your organisation may put this knowledge to good use by placing you in a research role. You may be asked to assist in streamlining an organisation’s work process in some way.

2. Learn and gain experience 

You’ll be expected to learn as much as you possibly can while you work, regardless of the kind of internship you’ve signed up for. What kind of learning will you be doing? It can be broken down into two main areas:  

  • Picking up hard skills: Hard skills are the technical skills you need to carry out your intern responsibilities, and eventually job duties, successfully. Examples include learning how to operate a computer program, drafting a company report, handling the company inventory, and maintaining the company database.    
  • Brushing up on your soft skills: Soft skills are as important as hard skills. Soft skills are all about your ability to relate to people and building mutually-beneficial relationships. Examples are talking, listening, conflict handling, time management, and development of empathy. You need soft skills to manage clients, not to mention get along with your bosses and colleagues.   

3. Job shadow

Job shadowing has become the norm recently. As the name suggests, the practice involves “shadowing” someone as they perform their daily duties, observing their activities, and learning what the role entails via indirect experience. This is an especially popular practice in hands-on fields like engineering and healthcare.  

How does this work exactly? When you join the organisation, you may be assigned a mentor. The first few weeks, you may be tasked with following them around. They’ll show you the ropes while they work. You may be asked to assist with light tasks here and there. You’ll be encouraged to ask questions. Eventually, you’ll be trained to take over the position and of intern roles.  

4. Take on an increasing amount of responsibility 

As time goes by, expect to shoulder an increasing amount of responsibility. Initially, they’ll gauge your current skill set and reliability with “grunt” work. As you prove yourself to your colleagues and bosses, you’ll be entrusted with more crucial tasks. The better you perform, the more the responsibilities you’ll be given. 

When you join as an intern, it’s always smart to give it your all. The work may feel uninspiring initially. That’s understandable. But if you can demonstrate enthusiasm and perform without complaining, you’ll slowly but surely work your way to the good stuff. 

Interns who really impress their bosses can expect glowing recommendations, if not an offer for full-time work.   

5. Network 

While networking isn’t an official requirement as such, it might as well be. Networking involves building relationships with your bosses, colleagues, and customers and clients. You’ll need the backing and support of people in places to build a successful career. Also, building good relationships with customers is always good for the organisation.

Here are some examples of the kind of networking interns do: 

  • Finding a mentor: Mentors act as anchor roles for interns. If you find a good one, you can follow in their footsteps and build a successful career just like your mentor. 
  • Forming a peer support group: Interning is hard. Finding a peer support group who is going through all the ups and downs with you will make it much more enjoyable for everyone involved. 
  • Getting in with bosses and coworkers: Interns who can build strong individual bonds with their coworkers and bosses become a part of the “family”. You’re much more likely to be offered a full-time role at the company down the road. 

6. Make a career call 

Finally, usually at the tail-end of your internship, you have to make a career-defining decision: continue in the field you interned in or try your hand at something else entirely. 

You got a taste of what working in your industry full-time would be like. Did you love the experience and can’t wait to dive back in again? Or do you feel you’d be happier doing something else?

Final Thoughts

Internships are usually short-term. They’re smaller investments in time and energy than full-time jobs. Consequently, they’re perfect opportunities to explore your options. You deserve work that’s fulfilling. If necessary, you can sign up for a different but related internship role elsewhere to see if you’re happier there. 

Your internship is going to shape the course of your career. It’ll assist you in acquiring the skills you need to perform up-to-par when you’re hired full-time. It’s essential you use your internship as the training opportunity it represents. 

You’re sure to have a bright future if you work hard, build positive relationships, and remain grateful for the internship opportunity. Capital Placement can assist you in securing a life-changing internship opportunity abroad, in line with your talents, skill-set, and career goals. Reach out to us now!   

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Co-founder and CEO of Capital Placement, a London based global internship programme provider, making international internships easier and more accessible for university students and recent graduates.

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