Every year, several students pass out of various streams of education and enter the job market. In this competitive scenario, other than your educational background, what can set you apart from your fellow candidates? Most often, the answer lies in two words – work experience!
When individuals seek employment, most employers prefer someone who is already familiar with the type of work or the work environment. So, whether you are a student scouting for potential job opportunities while still studying or a working professional seeking to switch to another field, obtaining hands-on or real-world experience is always a bonus.
The best way to obtain the relevant skills is via an internship.
What is an internship?
An internship is a chance given by an organisation to prospective employees to work for a specific period of time. The individuals given this opportunity are called interns and internships can last for a period of 1 to 3 months.
Interns can be undergraduates (yet to complete their degree) or students. They can be offered as part-time internships during an academic semester or full-time during the vacations. Older individuals who are in the process of switching careers or acquiring degrees can also work as interns.
If the interns do extremely well, some organisations even absorb them as employees later.
What are the advantages of an internship?
The intern gains
- Practical skills: The hands-on experience of the job and the rigour it entails
- Workplace experience: How to do the job and excel at it, learning from peers and seniors
- Industry knowledge: Information about the inner workings of the industry
- Network or contacts: Valuable contacts which can help propel his/her career, gain plum postings
In short, the intern gets groomed for his/her future career. The internship may also open the intern’s eyes to jobs that are not the right ‘fit’ for them without committing themselves on a full-time basis. Recommendation letters from the employers with whom they interned can also help improve their career prospects.
The employer is provided with
- Free and relatively cheap labour
- Valuable support and assistance for their current team
- Potential recruits who are already familiar with the working of their company
How are interns paid?
Internships can be paid or unpaid in nature, depending on the circumstances. The intern may be working for the experience or educational benefit (working towards credit in an academic program).
Even in case of internships with a stipend, the pay can range from the very low to a reasonable amount depending upon the industry that the intern is affiliated with. For example, the average stipend for interns in India varies from Rs. 3000-Rs.15,000 per month.
United States of America (USA)
According to the US Fair Labor Standards Act, a 7-point system is used to determine the ‘primary beneficiary’ of the intern-employer transaction. Upon assessment, if the circumstances reveal that the intern is more of an employee, then he/she is entitled to minimum wage and overtime pay. If not, the intern is legally not entitled to any payment.
Interns can earn hourly or on a salaried basis anywhere. The minimum wage is 7.25 US dollars (USD) per hour, or the salary starts anywhere from 25,000 USD per year. If you are an Indian national and studying in the US on an F1 visa, you can work part-time for 20 hours a week.
United Kingdom (UK)
Similarly, in the UK, an intern’s payment status depends on whether they are classified as a worker, a volunteer, or an employee. If an intern is classified as a worker, then he/she has to be paid the National Minimum Wage. If the intern carries out the usual paid work for the employer, he/she could be classified as an employee and could be eligible for employment rights.
How to land the kind of internships you need?
Interns normally scour their network for personal referrals to companies that might be willing to take up an intern or write to the hiring manager of the companies that attract them.
However, in today’s tech-savvy world, several websites offer to match you with the company that you would like to intern for such as
- LinkedIn: Can be used to search for internships; setting up a complete profile can assist you in reaching out for multiple opportunities. It also helps you access the people who work at the company of your interest via its features. Moreover, it allows you to ask others to write recommendations, strengthening your profile.
- Glassdoor: Offers company information, its salary, workplace reviews, etc. along with information on job opportunities.
- Google: Google’s search capabilities cannot be underestimated. Putting in the right search terms can bring up many relevant choices.
- School’s job listing site and alumni network: Leading universities have websites that put up job listings. If you belong to such a school, finding opportunities may become easier for you.
- Internmatch.com: Upon signing up, you receive notifications when options that match your requirements come up.
- Internships.com: Helps you find opportunities and also lets you see which of your Facebook contacts have a connection to your company of interest.
- Idealist: Mainly focuses on jobs and internships in the non-profit sector.
- Internshala: Offers internships both within India and abroad in various categories. It also provides online training to enhance resumes.
- Letsintern: Offers internships across India and across industries.
- Hellointern: Offers both internships and mentoring programs. You can find internships in startups or even non-profit organisations, chiefly in India.
- Twenty19: In addition to offering internships in various areas, it provides training courses as well as information on college fests and events.
- AngelList: Lists startup jobs across the world.
- Indian Internship: Offers internships across numerous fields in India.
How can you choose the right internship?
Clarity of thought: Be clear about the kind of field that you want to work in, the pay you expect, the distance you are willing to travel and the kind of work you are willing to do. Some examples include
- IT – mobile app developer, software tester, software developer
- Marketing – marketing professional/assistant, telemarketer, market research analyst
- Designing – Graphic/video game/fashion/interior designer, multimedia artist, art director
- Media – content manager, social media specialist, content writer, copywriter
- Engineering – Telecommunications/robotics engineer, electronic quality assurance engineer
However, this is by no means a complete list! The needs will change based on the industry. Familiarise yourself with the roles that you think you can do well in and contribute significantly!
- Research the company thoroughly: Once you have a list of potential internships that you would like to apply for, learn more about your employer. They need not necessarily be big names! Read about the company, check their social media pages, employee reviews and general presence. Delve into the projects undertaken by the company, if possible, try to talk to someone who works there or has interned there to get a clearer picture. Ensure that it is a place that will offer you a learning experience.
- Prepare yourself: Build an excellent resume so that you can write a good cover letter when you apply for the internship. Flesh out your profile on sites such as LinkedIn, etc. to boost your professional presence online.
- Apply well in advance: Whether you apply via a personal reference (through your network) or websites, make your internship application well in advance to avoid missing out on coveted opportunities.
- Be well-versed in English: This skill is definitely not the least. In this ever-changing global world, it is now a must-have skill to be able to speak and write clearly in English. Along with having good communication skills, you need to develop an all-round knowledge that will help you excel in whatever you are doing!! There are quite a number of books that you can choose to read or become a regular user of certain digital platforms that will boost your knowledge and communication skills in English. Skillioma is a great platform for the same.
All the best for your endeavours!
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