The internship is a regular rite of passage for any young person looking to get work experience. So-called work experience is a popular term within recruitment circles. What experience is this, though, and can you really get this sort of experience as part of an internship?
What is this Experience?
Believers in the internship system say that internships get you ready for the world of work. It migrated over from the United States and quickly took hold of the British recruitment industry.
In some cases, internships do get you ready for the world of work. If you get taken on for a job afterwards, it was essentially like training.
On the other hand, a lot of internships are completely and utterly pointless. You have to find the right internship for you. An article by writer John Fuller said that companies search for real world experience. Experience outside of the classroom can mean the difference between getting a job or not.
Some people argue that internships have replaced entry level roles. This is false. Internships are another hoop you have to jump through before you get to the entry level role. It’s a method of distinguishing between people, which is now necessary due to the severe dilution of the degree.
A Strip on a CV
What you get from an internship is a reference and something to place on your CV. This is the reality for most internships. If we look to the statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency from 2009, only 21.7% of interns were taken on by the same company.
The rest moved on and had to be content with a single line on a CV. This is all you have to show an employer. It’s one text line on a CV.
This gives the illusion of experience. What you tell someone at an interview might well differ from the reality of your internship. If you spent your time photocopying and making tea like a glorified butler, you might say to an interviewer that you acted as a support to enhance communication between team members.
We know the reality, though. All you’ve learned is the value of office drudgery.
Do You Really Learn Anything?
Internships in some sectors can teach you something. Hard skills that come from the industry you’re working in do definitely come in handy. These are the few internships that really give something back.
You can also learn soft skills, though. These include skills like punctuality, dealing with other people, and office politics.
Is it Worth It?
Internships are worth it purely due to the experience factor. Even if you have to settle for an illegal unpaid internship, experience is essential.
You won’t succeed by taking any sort of moral high ground by refusing to take unpaid internships. Employers don’t care. All they want is a graduate who has experience.
Employers are concerned about whether graduates are truly ready for the world of work. An article by the Daily Mail revealed that over half of employers surveyed in the UK believe that graduates fresh out of university aren’t ready for the world of work.
Whether they are ready or not doesn’t matter. The people looking for graduates to fill their positions do think that. And that’s something you need to change.
Work experience is one of the methods to make them change their minds. If they see someone who’s spent a few months working in a real job in a real office somewhere, they’ll know someone else has trained you up. It doesn’t matter what you did on this internship. In most cases, employers simply want to know that you aren’t a fresh university student who’s recently left their isolated bubble.
What do you think about work experience and the value of internships?