They Don’t Teach You That at School
By Braeden Andreoli, Brooke Farnfield, and Will Jacobs
A summer internship is an amazing way to explore your options and find out what you might be interested or even what you’re absolutely certain you don’t want to pursue as a career. You can also learn a lot and gain real-time, real-life experience including everything from how to communicate effectively to the best ways to network. Plus, you get to earn while doing it. Win-win, right?
Networking is key to landing an internship
For many students, summer internships are necessary to help fund their education during the school year, which is just one of the reasons finding one can be a challenge. You might send out hundreds of resumes in the spring and only get a few – if any – replies.
What we found is that reaching out to your network is the best place to start. Each of us got connected to our internships through contacts in our networks – talking to people we know and asking if they need an intern or know someone who does. People are always more likely to say yes to someone they know and trust or to someone who’s been referred to them by someone they know and trust.
Learning practical skills and lots of intangible ones, too
An internship can teach you a tonne about the day-to-day operation of a business – whether in an office, lab, or worksite – and what it would be like to have a career in that field. Things like accounting, sales and marketing, HR, networking and relationship building – and managing more intangible things like stress and work-life balance.
You start to grasp how to communicate with people at all levels, through conversations, emails, and presentations. Figuring out that some people need lots of information, while others just need the Cliff Notes, and accommodating that, is part of a skillset you just don’t learn at school. It’s a professional skill you can only develop over time by doing it.
Looking beyond yourself to the team and the company
Internships give you a better sense of what life is like outside of school. For example, there’s room to learn from your mistakes, but at the end of the day, the company you’re interning with is relying on your work. It’s not like submitting a project at school and being happy with a 95; what you provide has to be 100%.
You’re often working as part of a team, so you start to think about your work in terms of how it impacts everyone and not just yourself. For example, how to manage project timelines and schedules, because you’re not just working at your own pace – you’re working at the pace of the company and everyone around you.
Putting theory into practice
If you’re curious, advocate for yourself, and look for ways to contribute and learn, you can also start putting some of the things you learned in school into practice. Like volunteering to workon a project that’s in your field of study. It’s one thing to research the theory at school, and another to pull it all together in a real-life situation. Making that connection between what you learned in a classroom and what’s happening in the real world is invaluable.
How employers should treat their interns
Employers have as much of an opportunity as their interns and providing interns with meaningful work, vs just “keep busy” work is a much more effective and beneficial way of approaching the relationship. You have this chance to teach a younger person about something you’re passionate about and inspire them, to pass on what you’ve learned and really make a difference in someone else’s career.
When you bring interns into your business, you should understand that they can provide some really great work that can have a positive impact on the business. Interns want to learn and get the most out of their experiences, but at the same time, employers have an opportunity to get the most out of what interns have to offer, too.