Do Internships Matter? What To Look For In An Internship?

Posted on June 10, 2012 in Education, The Opinionated

By Anshul Tewari:

When a student enters college – internships are probably not the first thing on his/her mind. But as the competition gets tougher by the day, students start hunting for the perfect internships to add that extra edge to their experience, and their CVs and get a better job later. So do internships really matter? And if they do, what should a student look for in an internship?

Do internships really matter?

There are different thoughts and debates on this. While some people say that students must only focus on their studies, the unconventional thoughts go in favour of internships – and that is what even I personally recommend.

They fetch you professional experience: An ideal internship fetches you good quality professional experience, adding value to your already existing knowledge and skills. Moreover, it brings in you a degree of professionalism and work ethic, and the work-cycle prepares you well. While there are cases where the internship might go wrong, chances are that in 100% of the cases you will always have a good take away from the internship – a learning you will remember for life. I remember interning at the Indian Express (my first ever stint at professional journalism) gave me a mix of good and bad experiences. Good because I was the only one to cover the Delhi University admissions, and bad because I had to wait in college lines for 3 hours in scorching heat, and then wait for 8 hours for a computer to get free at the office so that I could file in my story. But it added a lot of experience.

They give you an edge: From an employers’ perspective, an experienced candidate is always better for the job – especially when he/she is a fresher. It gives them a relief that the person will definitely have some basic skills and not be a complete rookie. It is also an assurance that the candidate can will get a better job than his/her peers who do not have an internship experience.

They give you connections and network: If you’ve done it right, you will get the most out of it. And one of the essential things you get is a network of people within the organization you worked. Building right relations is extremely important, and an internship can do just that for you. Your employers and colleagues shall become your professional network, and staying in constant touch with them might just land you a fantastic job at the same organization – or even more. I still have some fantastic connections at the Wall Street Journal.

They enhance your skills: As I said in the first point, internships add on to your already existing skills. Moreover, the fact that you are working for an organization with big goals makes you want to learn all the skills to deliver better.

What to look for in an internship?

Internships are not easy to get. The first internship is your first experience, and getting in is tough. But what after you’ve done your first internship and  gotten your first good or bad experience? Look for the right internship to ensure the right experience.

While hunting for an internship do the following:

  • Talk to some of the past interns, if you know any, and try and find out the kind of work they did, and the kind of work you can expect. Ask them about the people and the culture there, and if it will really push you an extra mile and give you an edge. Many a times, I have seen interns doing jobs which add no value to their skill set, thus, this point comes in handy.
  • Be unconventional. Don’t look at massive companies which offer an internship involving just sitting all day long and writing an article, a piece of code, or just sifting through plans. Go against formal set ups and try your hand at new companies, startups, unconventional organizations, forums, events which will push you to do more than one thing, and do the best at all of them. It will add a hell lot of value to you.
  • Look at the internship profile and understand if this is something you really do want to get experience in. If you are interested in writing, or in robotics, make sure your internship exposes you to that profile. Be sure you are clear in your head what you want out of an internship – and hunt for it.
  • Be proactive in knowing about the industry you are from, organizations that run it, and the various opportunities they have – and get creative. An employer might be hiring a Java intern every year, but if you wish to go a step further, make sure you get creative at the job so that the employer offers you more than writing a Java code – or testing bugs.
  • There are many portals like letmeknow.in and internshala.com, which offer good internship opportunities in various fields. Make sure you are updated about them.

Having said all of the above, I’d highly recommend one final point: Don’t be too finicky. The more attitude or weight you throw about being selective of an internship, the more problems it will create. Be willing to do work – even if its menial. You do not get offered the post of a Vice President from day 1. You have to work your way up.

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