(The author is an Organisational Development Practitioner)
As the pressure for employment mounts, many young people are being encouraged to consider the value that internships add to the job search process. This is especially important as they realize the demand for work related experience whenever they approach a potential employer. However, not many young people have learned the art of seeking for internships. Many do not take the process seriously due to the imagination that they are seeking to provide free services. There is always the assumption that they are going to the workplace to only give services for free with little or no reward at all. The motivation to search for internships professionally is hence minimal.
It is important for you to note that internships are valuable opportunities just as it is important for the potential employers. Internships provide opportunities for on job training that helps the intern relate the theories they are exposed to in school with the realities of the workplace. This helps them appreciate how to customize theory to the requirements and needs of the workplace.
Persons who take internships seriously also realize that they are great opportunities for networking. During the internship period, you will want to closely engage with both staff and clients at your place of duty since you never know who among the hundreds of people you interact with will provide you with a future employment opportunity. Serve at your workplace as though you are on full time employment. Do not let the attitude of short term engagements affect your performance. The internship period is your ‘employment’ period hence give all your best to the tasks provided. Remember, you are being watched and successful implementation of tasks could just be the indicator that you could be considered for a longer assignment.
Internships also help you make an almost final determination with regard to your career choice. It is an opportunity for you to have a feel of the real world of work in your area of choice. As you engage with the expectations of the job, you would most likely determine whether you naturally flow in that career. Some people have actually made dramatic career changes during internships while others have had a stamp placed on their choice as they served as interns.
I would however wish to mention that for you to land an internship that adds value, you must be strategic. It is not just about getting an opportunity to work as part of the academic requirements. You will need to critically consider where you would want to intern. Once you are clear on what you are looking for, talk to friends and relatives and let them know your passion and the kind of experience you are interested in gaining. They could advise on possible companies or organizations to consider. If for instance you are interested in pursuing a career in humanitarian aid, you will want to seek for internships with organizations such as the Red Cross or World Vision.
In making this determination, you will have to source for as much information as possible on the possible placement opportunities. Visit their websites, read through their annual reports and strategic plans and consider the kind of jobs they advertise for. This clarifies what the organization is involved in and helps you make the decision on whom to approach.