When it comes to securing that all important graduate job offer, it’s no longer enough just to have a good degree. Relevant work experience via an internship is now just as important as exam results to your future career and is one of the key attributes sought by graduate employers.
When you look at the stats, the reason why internships are good for students looking for their first role becomes clear. According to Monster.com, 85% of companies use internships to recruit for full-time roles, with former interns projected to fill 37% of graduate vacancies, rising to an incredible 75% for investment banking. But what are internships, and how can they benefit you?
What does an internship involve?
An internship is a period of work experience within an organisation or company, usually undertaken by university students or recent graduates. Also known as placements, internships can be full time (generally during summer) or part time (during term time), paid or unpaid, and can last from a week to a year, depending on the department and company in question.
With the emphasis firmly on training, internships give students real-life experience of the workplace and field they hope to break into. This not only helps them gain critical work skills and decide if the career they are experiencing is right for them, it also enables them to make valuable work contacts and acts as an important stepping-stone to securing a job and climbing the first rung on the career ladder. Find out more about what an internship involves.
Why do I need to do an internship?
As the statistics above indicate, having a good degree is no longer enough. As a result, more and more university leavers are looking for additional experience to give them the edge when applying for graduate schemes or positions.
While bulking up your CV with extra-curricular activities is nothing new, the sheer number of graduates entering the job market each year means that relevant, work-related experience is now a vital addition to your application. In many cases, one of the best and most accessible ways of gaining this experience is through an internship. Read on to discover ten ways an internship can benefit you.
Work experience via an internship is no longer a "nice to have" but a "must have".
What are the key benefits of an internship?
1. Develop critical work skills
One of the main beauties of an internship is that it will give you the chance to gain experience in a real workplace, honing the skills developed during your degree - such as teamwork and analysis - to the level required by the business. It will also give you the opportunity to develop and demonstrate new critical work skills before you’ve graduated, making you a far more attractive prospect for future employers.
2. Get the edge over the competition
Graduate recruiters want to see that you’ve gone the extra mile and have the passion and drive to acquire skills and experiences outside of the classroom. To combat this, many clued-up graduates are undertaking not just one but multiple internships, giving them a wide range of skills and experience of multiple companies and departments, all of which appeals to potential recruiters.
With competition tougher than ever, if you want get the edge over your classmates, undertaking at least one internship is less a question of “why should I?” and more “can I afford not to?”
3. Achieve higher grades
Some studies suggest that the skills and experience you gain during work placements and internships help graduates achieve higher overall grades in their exams, giving you an in-depth understanding of the principles and ideas learnt during your degree, which you can draw on when taking exams.
What’s more, although some internships may not count towards your degree, many universities offer work experience and placements that do count as a percentage of your overall mark, helping you gain valuable experience and achieve better grades.
4. Network, network, network
One of the major benefits of undertaking an internship is the opportunity to build connections with professionals and leading figures in your chosen sector and company. Perform well, and these connections can help you in a multitude of ways, from keeping you in mind for future opportunities to providing that all important reference or letter of recommendation for a graduate role, MSc or additional internship.
As you develop in your chosen career, they can also serve as vital business connections in your ‘little black book’ - a commonly advertised requirement for many roles, particularly in the field of media.
5. Secure future employment
Work placements can act as both a protracted audition and on-the-job training for a full-time role, with many students securing future employment off the back of their internships before they’ve even graduated. Even if your internship doesn’t immediately result in a full-time role, many employers prefer to hire tried-and-tested interns over new candidates, and will keep you in mind for opportunities as and when they arise, or recommend you to their own network of connections.
6. Try before you buy
If you’ve grown up dreaming of life as a high-flying investment banker or ground-breaking engineer, it’s easy to become blinkered to other career opportunities. An internship not only gives you the opportunity to gain the skills and experience you’ll need to take the first step in your chosen career, it will also give you real experience of it, helping you to decide if your aspirations match the reality.
By undertaking multiple internships, you’ll also have the chance to try out different companies and areas of your chosen industry, giving you the knowledge to make an informed decision about the best department and company for you.
7. Explore unexpected avenues
There are internships in every industry imaginable, from HR to investment banking. If you’re undecided on the field you want to enter, internships can give you the chance to try out roles, departments and industries you’ve never considered, which may help narrow down your options, or even open up a whole new career path.
8. Gain experience beyond the textbooks
Although your degree will teach you about case studies and concepts useful for your future career, nothing beats real work experience. Not only does it allow you to see and put what you’ve learnt into action, it also exposes you to unique situations and issues beyond those taught in textbooks.
As a result, it teaches you about your own reactions and abilities in a variety of different situations - helping you identify and build on your strengths as well as improve on weaknesses - all of which is invaluable for your future career.
9. Avoid the uni-to-work culture shock
The first year of full-time work can be a bit of a culture shock. From the seemingly endless battle to secure employment to long, non-negotiable working hours and the drudgery of the daily commute, the first year of ‘freedom’ can make even the most optimistic graduate pine for the days of 9am lectures and library fines.
By giving you a taste of life in your chosen field, an internship not only gives you the connections and experience you need to help secure a graduate role (thereby helping you avoid the endless job hunt), it also gives you a better idea of what to expect and helps lessen the jolt of entering full-time employment.
10. Earn as you learn
Although unpaid internships remain a topic of much debate, paid internships do exist, while many others offer an untaxed training allowance that cover expenses such as travel and food. While every job offers transferable skills, such as teamwork, problem solving and cash handling, paid internships give you the opportunity to earn (sometimes good) money while learning vital skills for your future career.
In addition, many internships or work placements take place during the summer holidays, ensuring they don’t clash with term-time study or work commitments.
Read more about why internships and apprenticeships are a good idea: