My previous blog post stressed the importance of developing a good job search strategy and ways in which you can help decide what career direction you want to take. Completing an internship is a significant step to establishing this. Internships have become an incredibly popular route to take whilst at university or even after you graduate as a means to gain experience and to put your 'foot in the door'. A recent High Fliers survey of 100 employers shows that one third will hire those that previously worked for their company as an undergraduate. But what is the big deal about internships?

Benefits

Internships are a great way to get an insight into a particular industry with the opportunity to learn an incredible amount in a short space of time. They are often a good way to facilitate and prepare yourself for work after university whilst creating future opportunities and widening your network. Naturally, the obvious benefit as mentioned previously is the possibility for the company to offer you a job upon graduation. Think of it as an extended interview, they get to see how motivated, driven and committed you are and at the same time, seeing whether you fit into the company. It also gives you a chance to interact with people within an industry you may want to get into.

Don't just apply to the large companies

I completed an internship during a three month period within an SME and got filled with a vast amount of knowledge, contributing a lot to the company by taking responsibility of numerous projects. Of course internships within large companies are great too, but they have limited places and the process to apply is usually as stressful as applications to full time jobs in comparison to smaller companies. There may be less flexibility which again will depend on the internship and the company. With my three month internship, I could choose what projects I wanted to do and take charge of them, with a larger company this may be more limited. I am not saying you won't gain much from interning in a large company, simply that if you are unsure what sized company you want to work for in the future, then this is a great way to find out! Either way, decide beforehand what you want to get out of the internship and set yourself goals to achieve to keep you on track. Just don't be afraid to explore new routes as an internship will significantly add value to your future career decisions no matter if you decide afterwards that it isn't the industry or field you want to get into, it's still great experience!

Record your achievements

You will learn a great deal while doing an internship, but it is important to make sure that you record your achievements, what you learnt and ways you have developed during your time as an intern. Why? Because this is something you can use to demonstrate key areas to employers. These can be any newly acquired skills, any key results from projects you may have managed or anything you contributed during your internship. However, remember to use this for your CV too as this is a great way to show exactly what you have done and how you went about it rather than simply stating you did an internship.

Overall, internships are great for making use of your time during the holidays whilst also finding out whether that particular industry is right for you. Not only do they help shape your future career decisions, but they also provide an opportunity to put your theory into practice whilst developing entirely new skill sets- and that is priceless.