I undertook three internships throughout my college years. Each internship was very different but they all taught me many things.
If you are currently undertaking an internship this summer and struggling to see the benefits then hopefully some of my experiences, good and bad will help you understand the type of experience you are having.
1. Paid internship abroad
Good & bad.
In my second year of college I was required to undertake a work placement. I decided to use this as an opportunity to work abroad. I went to New Jersey USA, living and working on the outskirts of Manhattan, New York.
The whole experience of living abroad was amazing. The internship itself was less amazing.
My work was very basic, not having to do much at all and nothing of great importance. I didn’t learn a whole lot to do with the industry itself. However I definitely did a lot of maturing over those 6 months and it’s an experience I look back on with great fondness.
It was my first full time job where I worked five days a week which in itself was a great learning curve. Getting used to working full days, day after day. Managing my time and myself and earning a decent wage. All the while looking after myself, cooking all my meals, keeping a house clean etc All the independent essentials. And I loved it.
I couldn’t recommend working abroad more. Of course you should look for a great job too, where you will gain lots of working experience, but even if that doesn’t go quite to plan it will still be a great experience to have on your CV as it shows you are independent and have “world” experience.
Experiencing full time work and how to manage your life around it, a big(er) wage than a part time job, growing up/ becoming an adult, as cringe as that sounds.
Living abroad has its own obvious pros such as experiencing living away from home with friends, freedom and experiencing new places.
A job abroad on a J1 or for college placement might not be the best job for industry experience. The actual living abroad experiences usually comes first and is more of a priority, but that’s not the worst 😃
2. Last minute internship
Unpaid and bad.
Summer between 3rd and 4th (final) year of college I decided I needed to do an internship that would get me ready for a real job the following year. I knew it would be competitive for marketing graduates and wanted to get some experience under my belt to give me an advantage.
Unfortunately I left it a bit late in the year and only began looking late May when most were already filled. I applied to a unpaid internship that came through from my college career adviser. I interviewed and got the job. I was excited, my first week was spent listening to all the great things I would get to do and how I’d have my own personal marketing mentor. Not being paid didn’t bother me when I had all these promises. Weeks went by and I was yet to meet my “mentor”, I eventually learned there wasn’t one.
My manager, the CEO (as she called herself) didn’t give me any direction to what it was I was there for other than that I was to “do marketing” and make things go viral. With no budget, no training and no plan.
So as you can imagine it worked out really well. Not!
The company was a small start up, non profit organisation that organises a festival to bring together the different cultures in Ireland. A lovely idea. The staff including myself were all there as volunteers. We weren’t treated well or with respect, and witnessed questionable behaviour from the CEO towards us, and the investors she would try get money from.
Despite the above I still managed to learn a few valuable lessons. How not to treat your staff and external partners.
Interns are not free staff. It’s so unfortunate that many company’s do not realise this. If you end up in this situation don’t hesitate to leave. Cut your losses before you are demotivated to ever work again, and go find a different internship.
An internship should be mutually beneficial to the intern and the company, if not more beneficial to the intern.
You should be paid with experience.
Learning what not to do in a company, or as a manager and learning your rights as an employee.
Little to no valuable experience.
3. The right internship
Unpaid and good.
This internship was different for a few reasons. I was finishing college and looking for my first job. I put a lot of pressure on myself to have something lined up straight away for when I finished. I didn’t know how competitive the market for graduates would be and was worried if I took too much time off after college all the jobs would be gone. (In hindsight this was not really the case). So I started to apply to graduate program after graduate program, some of which I got called for interviews. It would be at this interview stage where I would realise I didn’t actually want that role or to work in that company. I had applied for the sake of applying.
Eventually I came across an internship spec for a big company based in Dublin. At this this I’d become a pro of sorts in spotting the good from the bad internships from their descriptions. But there was something about this one that seemed honest and true to what an internship should be. It also mentioned were past interns had gone on to find jobs which was a big selling point. I applied, got an interview and got hired. It was not paid and it was for 6 months. I was excited but I got the impression from my peers it wasn’t something they would do.
I understand the idea of working unpaid after finishing college does not sound appealing and I knew I could have found a paid job somewhere else but I’ve always been one to think ahead into the future and make decisions based on long term effects. I’m a future thinker and I rarely keep my head in the present…It is what it is.
This was a global company with a great marketing team who were excited by mentorship and willing to spread their knowledge. The type of company qualified to take on an intern.
I never really felt like I was their intern, I was involved in every aspect, attended all meetings praised and awarded. I was encouraged to ask questions, to be involved in any project or task I had interest in. As an intern I was allowed time off for holidays and some shorter days but I didn’t take advantage which I think showed how serious I was about doing well. Before the 6 months was up, before summer was over, I was offered a full time Job.
I did take a bit of a risk doing yet another internship instead of taking a paid job straight away but it was a risk I can now say paid off. I went on to stay with this company for over a year before getting an offer for another job based on all the great experience I had acquired.
Experience, career guidance, time to figure out what you really want to do, and a possible full time paid position.
Living with little to no money (But worth it when you eventually get your first pay check).
Not everyone will need to do an internship, you might get lucky and get your dream job straight away. But if your not sure what you want to do, or the type of company you want to work for doing an internship allows you time to decide, while learning valuable skills. For some companies, the only way a graduate can get their foot in the door is by doing an internship first.
Whether your internship is enjoyable or not, educational or not, I can guarantee you will have learned something either way.
But for a good internship always keep in mind that it should be mutually managed beneficial parties.
They have to be happy to teach you stuff, and you have to be happy to do that stuff.
Would you do an internship? Have you done one, and if so how did it go for you?