Are you thinking about an internship? They look good on your CV, and help fill in the gaps for the many soft skills that employers are looking for these days.  

Once you've completed your internship you gain two valuable things that give you an advantage over other graduate recruits; experience and a reference. Internships can bring you so much more than that, though.

People in meeting


Try out your chosen career

It’s one thing to think that you’ll love a job, and to study hard to get the qualifications you need to apply. It’s quite another to do the job, week after week.

When we dream about things we tend to look for the bright sides; we imagine ourselves as a highly competent wedding planner organising someone’s dream day. We don’t tend to dream about bridezilla on the rampage because her doves are the wrong shade of white.

Practical experience is really the only way to find out if you enjoy a job when it comes down to it. It’s also the only way to find out if you’re really suited to it. Better to find out now, while you can still change your mind when it comes to long-term commitments.

Build those soft skills

When employers were asked by recruitment company LinkedIn what they most wanted to see on a graduate’s CV, the results were surprising.

In a world where there are more graduates than graduate roles, employers are now prioritising skills like communication and organisation. Those are hard skills to demonstrate (although we did give you some advice on how to do that recently) but having an internship will not only help you build them, but give you concrete examples you can work into your job interviews.

Start your network

The old saying ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ has never been truer. Not only is a network a great way to find work, it’s also a useful thing to use when you have work.

It’s a valuable skill, more useful in some trades than others perhaps, but having plenty of numbers in your contact list will never be a bad thing. This is particularly true if you’re one of the growing number of graduates who is thinking about working for themselves.

You can make mistakes

When you’re an intern, you get a lot more leeway when mistakes are made. You’re not expected to know everything; you haven’t finished your degree and you’re not a professional. And you will make mistakes, everyone does when they start something new. So, an internship is a great way to get that awful experience out of the way before it could do damage to your career.

Build a portfolio

During your internship, you will be involved in projects which you can include on your CV. They’ll be great to pull out as examples during interviews, to demonstrate your experience and personal qualities.

If you work in a creative field, you’ll be able to have a literal portfolio, whether it be a website you helped design, articles you’ve written or logos created. All of this helps you to stand out from other candidates.

People skills

At school and university, you are in a very polar environment. You have students on the one hand, who are all pretty equal. On the other hand, you have staff. There don’t tend to be too many shades of grey.

When you get into the work environment things get more complicated. There are bosses and bosses’ bosses, from middle management all the way up to the CEO. You will have colleagues, and perhaps support staff who report to you.  Then of course there’s clients, either business to business or dealing with members of the public.

Learning to navigate your way through the new hierarchy takes some doing, but an internship gives you a head start.

Introduction to work-life balance

This last one is a lot less fun, but you may find that the hours that a full-time job can take up when you consider commuting, unpaid overtime and social events are a bit more challenging to your schedule than uni life.

You’ll come out of your internship with realistic expectations of what you’ll need to do, to perform well at work.

Something to be proud of

An internship gets you through so many of your firsts. You'll need a CV, to have interviews, and of course to fulfil the role you were asked to do.

Getting an internship is an accomplishment, but once you've completed it and are looking at all those benefits gleaming on your newly buffed CV? That’s when you can be really proud.

Sarah Dixon writes for Inspiring Interns, which helps companies find the perfect intern and career starters the perfect job, in everything from tech jobs to marketing internships.

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