The word ‘internship’ is widely used but the term is maybe not as widely understood.
An internship is a work experience placement, typically offered to students, graduates and career changers. They can vary in length however usually last for a fixed period of two or three months with the potential for this contract time to be extended.
While they are open to anyone, students typically accept internships in order to apply what they have learned in university to real situations within the workplace and gain experience working within their chosen industry. Internships can be found on a number of recruitment websites and online databases as well as through networking, with various sectors such as the technology, research and media industry regularly recruiting interns.
Although internships are becoming quite popular, some students are still put off applying for temporary work placements due to the reinforcement of some common misconceptions.
Having accepted two internships within the last year, here I expose the myths about internships:
Myth 1: Interns only perform menial tasks
Fact: Contrary to popular belief, interns are important. With very few exceptions, at some point during any career you will probably have to answer the phone and make the coffee, but this is not to say that your job will only consist of doing the coffee run or making everyone’s hot drinks. The same can be said for interns – sometimes you may have to make or buy someone a coffee and you may be required to answer the phone, but this is not all your internship will consist of!
Myth 2: Interns are delegated everyone’s unwanted tasks
Fact: If you’ve seen any American film which is set within a workplace, there will almost certainly be an eager student or graduate playing personal assistant to almost every member of staff: following them as they walk from one meeting to the next, hanging on their every word while frantically trying to write down each task which they want completed urgently. This is not how internships work in the real world. Yes, internships can be fast-paced and yes, you may have to complete tasks and run errands for a few different members of staff, but this doesn’t mean that you’ll be re-enacting a scene from The Devil Wears Prada!
Myth 3: Interns have no power and companies don’t care about them
Fact: Of course, this depends on the organisation but for the most part, interns will be able to contribute and offer advice and ideas to their co-workers. Interns play a major role within companies and as much as the experience benefits the company they are working for, internships are also a learning experience which should benefit the intern and allow them the chance to acquire knowledge and grow as a person. So don’t be shy – pitch that idea, offer your opinion, correct the boss (N.B: only if they’ve said something incorrect…)
Myth 4: Internships are always full-time and are always unpaid
Fact: Despite the recognition that everyone should be paid for their time, there are still some unpaid internships around however this is not the norm anymore. The internships which are unpaid are often either part-time or remote so there is still the opportunity to find part-time employment on top of your internship. Interns are usually paid, at the very least, the National Minimum Wage but can be paid the National Living Wage or higher, depending on the company and the role. If you’re unsure if the internship that you are applying for is paid or not, ask! Employers know how important money is, so it won’t affect your application if you ask about payment, given that it isn’t your first question at the interview!
Myth 5: Internships are temporary employment, so they aren’t worth the effort
Fact: While it’s true that internships usually have a provisional end date agreed in advance, this is not set in stone – some companies extend the contract of their interns or offer them a permanent position if there is one to be offered. Even if you aren’t kept on, completing an internship is a great addition to your cv and will stand you in good stead for when you’re applying for jobs in the future!
Good luck and happy job hunting!