In my first year studying computer science at KNUST, I learnt the benefits of internships. One of them being that you could gain some work experience in advance. Seeing that most companies require a stipulated number of years of work experience. This motivation fuelled my willingness to take unpaid internships. I gained good exposure and learned relevant soft skills that have greatly improved my thinking and attitude.
I happened to recently be recruiting interns for my workplace and have had students of all levels and calibre calling in to inquire about the internship. Some of the questions asked and the statements made are what motivated me to put together this article. The first year students unashamedly told a recruiter (me) that they had no CV. The other being if there would be an allowance, i.e if the internship is a paid one. The last being the inability of the students to determine whether their courses fit into the internship roles.
If you are a student reading this (this also applies to graduates and entry-level staff), the first thing you should understand is that not a lot of people care about how you turn out professionally. It’s true that government and leaders should be interested in the development of their youth since obviously, the youth are the future. It’s not the employer’s responsibility to necessarily show you the way if you don’t know where you’re going. The most the employer can do is to help you get where you’re going. This only happens especially if you know which direction you’re headed.
As a student aspiring to intern, you should take the entitlement mindset out of your life. Forget about being paid for your internship and rather focus on getting internships that would allow you to learn and offer you room to grow, create and innovate. Don’t just seek an internship to occupy you whilst on vacation. Consciously search for internships that have a substantial value to add to you professionally and personally. If you’re unable to find a company that fits locally, look internationally (if you have the capacity), or opt to volunteer with local and international bodies for the experience.
I outline some few six things you should do as a student to aid you to be an intern with a purpose.
On campus, especially here in Ghana, there are groups like AIESEC, ENACTUS and a host of other clubs and groups that groom students in entrepreneurship and self-awareness. If you’re a first-year student who doesn’t seem to have any work experience enough to have a CV, joining groups like this would expose you to projects that would give you some experience. They would also train you in professional behaviour and give you an edge in learning soft skills that your colleagues may have no idea about. Remember that the University isn’t like the Senior High School where juniors aren’t allowed to hold certain positions or be in certain capacities. In the University, the universal diversity of every student is to be exploited, whether a fresher or a finalist.
Take Personality/Career Tests
There are lots of personality tests out there that come complete with explanations for how you behave the way you do and which kind of roles would suit your personality. The test here exploits the Myers-Briggs Personality test, and they have ebooks that expatiate your personality further, giving you tips and ideas on how to succeed with your personality. Career tests like this one, also exploit your interests and match them to current careers in the world or your industry that you could take a shot at. The purpose of these tests isn’t to determine your future, but rather to give you an idea of where to start. And this could be very important in helping you decide which career or internship opportunity for that matter is right for you. Which leads to my next point.
Participate in Competitions, Conferences, Seminars
On campus, you have the opportunity to properly explore a lot of conferences, seminars and get to experience working with people from different aspects of life. From my days back on campus, I remember the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Campus sessions, Goldman Sachs Internships, Unilever Idea Trophy, Hackathons, and I am sure there a host of others that may have been added now, like the British Council Duapa Challenge and the like. Opportunities for Africans, Opportunity Desk have a lot of information about opportunities for students, graduates and professionals. Whether a fresher, finalist, or graduate, you have no excuse not to have any experience to be able to write a CV or job experience. The world is yours to take.
Research Your Field
Research is a skill that is necessary for survival in this 21st century and beyond. With access to the internet and a smartphone, you have all you need to perform career research. You can explore specific careers and learn how they are performing in the job industry. You can find out who you’re meeting for your next interview. Better still, you can learn more skills to advance your knowledge thus giving you a tool to sharpen your expertise and skills. Which makes you indispensable as a student, intern, graduate, or entry-level staff. You are valued where you provide value. So don’t wait for someone to suggest an opportunity before you scramble for it, go out there and make things happen. Some places for technical and soft skills courses include but aren’t limited to edX, Coursera, Udacity, Open Learning, etc.
Have a Plan
I am very aware this should have been the first point, but I decided to put it last. Planning your future is very important. I know a lot of young people, fear to put pen to paper. Thinking carefully to structure what we want life to mean to us. But it is the most important decision you can make. The bible says, “A man’s mind plans his way [as he journeys through life], But the Lord directs his steps and establishes them (AMP)”. Set realistic expectations, have goals for every internship or job you take. Planning would help you know what you should try first. Be it volunteering, engaging in entrepreneurship competitions, or maybe travel for internships and fellowships.
In conclusion, live with an awareness that work experience isn’t always limited to working in a company per se. Sometimes, volunteer opportunities, fellowships, competitions etc count towards being work experience. Some employers want people who can add value to their business, not people who carry an entitlement mindset. Change your mind today.
I would love to hear your thoughts on interning with a purpose. You can also share your experiences and nuggets of wisdom to encourage others who read.
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All Rights Reserved. Mimi’s Passion 2017