Working for nothing? For low pay? Long and exhausting hours with no benefits as opposed to other employees of the same company receiving a full-time salary? Sounds like one of those programs with hidden cameras, right? Well, it is not!
It is simply the reality of interns or fellows in the present times. Today, both students and companies question the value of the experience you get as an intern. Does it really benefit candidates when they apply for a job?
The main objective of an internship is to help university students decide which career they want to follow after graduation. Internships are more than just a job after school. The daily tasks of interns vary widely, and they end up learning a wide variety of new skills.
Interns, unlike what appears in movies and popular culture, are not subjected to serving coffee or making photocopies. If you are looking to get in touch with the professional world while you are still studying, an internship can be a very good opportunity, depending on the conditions in which it is carried out and the company you choose to do it with.
What Exactly Does an Internship Entail?
An internship is an unpaid professional practice, although interns may sometimes receive compensation to cover, at least, the expenses of commuting to the company with which they are collaborating. An internship can be an outstanding experience or a waste of time and money, depending on the conditions of the same and how each student takes advantage of it.
When done well, internships are opportunities for students to take their first steps in the professional world, turning over what they have learned in the university and learning all the practical part that in the institutions is more relegated.
There are several ways in which an internship is beneficial for a student or recent graduate. For example, doing an internship allows you to apply theoretical knowledge in practice and work by understanding the dynamics of a company. You also get to practice teamwork and coordination between different areas in search of the same objective and meet people from your field of interest.
For most students or recent graduates, having no work experience is common. That said, a CV that includes an internship can make all the difference. An internship is an option worth considering as it helps young people without professional experience stand out among the others, as long as the company in which you work does its part well.
For the internship to be beneficial, you must demand the same discipline you offer from the company. This means that you will work for a couple of months for free, but only in exchange for learning. If the internship is about doing the work that nobody has done in years and has nothing to do with what you have studied, you will definitely not be learning anything that adds to your career.
The problem of internships is that some companies may ‘abuse’ the student’s need to start their professional practices and, thus, have a constant rotation of interns who do what no one does. So, they end up learning nothing valuable in terms of their professional or personal development and all without a salary.
In an article by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on whether internships are an opportunity or a labor trap, the ILO Youth Employment Program Coordinator, Gianni Rosas, explained that internships should always have a formative component since that is what they are – a training at work. If young people are used to carrying out tasks that are normally performed by stable staff, it can be considered undercover work, which can be prosecuted in labour courts.
Another significant negative of an internship is the lack of pay or very low pay. Strictly speaking, interns are not employees and, therefore, do not receive a monthly salary. In most cases, interns are offered a monthly payment to cover transportation and meals.
That said, if they are trained properly, keeping the experience they gain in mind, the low pay is of little consequence. In such a healthy scenario, an internship can prove to be beneficial for not just the intern but also the company as they will mutually benefit from the value the other provides to their professional development. Another way in which employers can benefit from internships is through the apprenticeship levy. This tax that is mandatory for UK employers can potentially help them fund new apprentices while getting fresh talent in their company at the same time. Hence, it is a win-win for both parties.
Thus, when determining whether to carry out an internship or not, evaluate what the company offers. If you know that it will give you the opportunity to develop, establish contacts, and learn significant things about your profession, do not hesitate to accept it!
However, if what the company is looking for is burdening you with tasks that will not contribute to your development in any manner, you should think twice before agreeing to spend a part of your time and efforts there.