Interns get the chance to explore life in the real world, and this means taking on a certain level of responsibility. Individual tasks and projects are a fantastic way of getting the responsibility and real working experience you need to make your internship a success. But, what exactly is the role of an intern?
It’s not a stretch to say that internships have become indispensable. The competition for jobs has never been stiffer. When making hiring decisions, we note, employers will lean heavily towards students who have at least some internship experience under their belts.
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 to enter your internship with the right mindset. If you don’t know what to expect from your internship role, you’d better prepare yourself so that you know what you need to succeed. Also, carrying out your intern responsibilities successfully will help you build up a potent skillset.
What is an intern?
An intern is a trainee who has signed on with an organisation for a brief period. The goal of an internship 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 long-term internships, you’ll almost always be compensated in some way. The compensation may include a monthly wage, accommodation, travel expenses, and/or a food allowance.
Many companies require you to complete an internship with them before they even consider you for a full-time role.
What do interns 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:
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 trained 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 responsibilities:
- Performing clerical duties: It’s almost a guarantee you’ll be taking memos, maintaining files, organising, 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 meetings, including organising conference rooms, and taking care of the food and drink.
- Research: Also, 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.
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? That can be broken down into two main areas:
- Picking up hard skills: Hard skills are the technical skills you need to successfully carry out your intern responsibilities, and eventually job duties. 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, diffusing conflict, time management, and development of empathy. You need soft skills to manage clients, not to mention get along with your bosses and colleagues.
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. During the first few days or 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 and will be encouraged to ask questions. Eventually, you’ll be trained to take over the position.
Take on an increasing amount of responsibility
As time goes by, expect to shoulder an increasing amount of responsibility. Initially, the company will gauge your current skill set and reliability with “grunt” work. Eventually, 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 at first, and 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.
While networking isn’t an official requirement as such, it might as well be. Networking involves building relationships with your bosses, colleagues, customers and clients. You’ll need the backing and support of people in different 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 them.
- 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 in future.
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?
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 internship role with another company in the same industry to see if you’re happier there.
Your internship is going to shape the course of your career. It’ll help you acquire the skills you need to perform up-to-par when you’re hired full-time. It’s essential to 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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