Interns and Internships are inextricably linked – an intern is how you refer to someone undertaking an internship. The internship is the programme an intern undertakes.
An internship is a period of time spent training to gain the necessary qualifications or experience for a particular role. Unlike work placements, where students take time off to work for an organisation, internships aren’t limited to students. Anyone can take part in an internship – it’s simply a programme training people for a specific role in an organisation.
An intern can be a student or trainee gaining practical experience in a particular role. These are usually unpaid positions (depending on the individual’s employment status), but organisations do use them to train people for certain positions or to direct people onto graduate programmes.
Internships can last anywhere between a week and 12 months. Typically, they’re for students in their final year, looking to gain or improve their skills in a specific field. Many large and multinational businesses offer internships as a way of preparing students for a career with their organisation.
Benefits for organisations
Internships are beneficial to organisations for a variety of reasons. By taking on interns, companies can invest in their futures whilst gaining support for their existing employees. Lower-level tasks can be completed by interns, therefore, freeing up time for existing employees to focus on more pressing tasks. This can potentially save an organisation money, preventing them from needing to hire lower-level employees or freelancers.
Though interns lack experience, they can bring fresh ideas to the table, which can add value to certain things like meetings.
Something else to consider for organisations as a result of offering internships, is that you are building a talent pool of candidates with relevant skills and experience.
The publicity of offering internships can also be a benefit to organisations. It can raise their profiles locally, with educational institutes and in their industry. More awareness of an organisation can have many positive effects; increasing your talent pool, highlighting your business to potential candidates and clients and giving your organisation a great reputation.
Benefits for interns
Interns often have a supervisor, or someone that will monitor their progress and provide feedback. This is invaluable to interns as they’re brand new to the industry. Feedback can help guide them as they’re gaining new skills and knowledge. A well-structured internship can provide interns with more than just experience. Connections, skills and industry knowledge are just as useful to interns as experience. The experience they gain will give them a better standing for salary negotiations though.
One of the less obvious benefits of an internship is it can give interns an insight into what they don’t want to do. Due to there being no commitment from either party, candidates can leave and take on something more suitable for them.
As those willing to intern at an organisation are working towards employment, having evidence that you’ve gone the extra mile gives you an edge over the competition. In addition to this, the experience gained from an internship can help those still studying to achieve higher grades. This will make finding employment much easier.
Finding the right internship
There are a few things to consider when looking for your internship; do you need a paid one? If so, this will reduce the number available to you quite significantly, as many are unpaid. What do you want to get out of the internship? New skills, useful connections, experience in the workplace? Figure out what your goals are before searching – this will help you find the most appropriate one for you.
Does the organisation hire at the end of the internship? Some businesses will use internships as a test period for employees. If you’re looking for permanent employment at the end of your internship – you should ensure that this is offered before undertaking one.
Those who are just seeking real-life experience in the workplace will have more options to choose from. You’re not working towards a specific role in a specific company, so you can keep your options open. If you are looking to gain experience in a particular organisation or industry, however, you will have a smaller group to choose from. In this instance, less options can mean more focus, making your search easier. As you’re focusing on a particular role, there will likely be more competition for each spot, but the value of the internship will likely be significantly higher due to it being more specific to you.
Finding the right intern
For organisations, finding the right intern depends on what they are looking for. As previously mentioned, interns are often used to reduce the load on existing staff and allow them to focus on more important matters. Other businesses will have a more structured and planned approach for interns. They may want their interns to work on specific things to help acclimatise them to the role or industry.
Should a business just need some additional support for general tasks, they could find interns from almost anywhere. This could include jobs boards, social media, careers websites, educational institutes and many more. For those organisations looking for someone more specific, they may want to narrow their search somewhat. For instance, connecting with particular departments in colleges and universities and posting the opportunity online with specific requirements, using careers websites or jobs fairs will likely make the search easier.
An organisation that plans to take on interns should plan well in advance for them. At a minimum, you’ll need a detailed job description, you’ll need to post the opportunity on your chosen platforms (social media, company website, careers pages etc.) and start the search well in advance of when you actually need people to start. Candidates will need to know all the most pertinent details of the internship before applying – hours, remuneration (if applicable), role, what supervision there will be, and any goals of the internship. With a more detailed description, candidates that fit well should be slightly easier to find. Those that don’t fit, may also exclude themselves based on certain details, so a detailed description can save you both time and money.