While pursuing a higher education, it is a MUST to acquire some hands-on experience(s) in the workplace before you graduate. Internship or apprenticeship is one way to equip yourself with the skills that will prepare you for life after school.
I know we are all familiar with the usual internship stories. The funny but unfortunate ones: “I didn’t do any proper work, I was just buying food and running errands for the staff.” Or the dreaded ones: “They really abused me over there. Arranging files and delivering letters.” Or the ‘almighty’ photocopy ones, “I thought I was going to do something better other than running photocopies.”
Trust me when I say the photocopies you might run during your internship period can do wonders for you in future! Don’t worry we have all done that – I am an experienced photocopy professional J
I will like to address a few negative comments/complaints/feedback some interns or students have shared with me regarding their internship experience(s). Although some are valid, there are many I believe could have been approached differently if they had had someone guiding them. Do not take these internship opportunities for granted as there are a lot of things to learn, irrespective of the challenges:
- ‘Unpaid internship? No way!’
I know people who have let great internship opportunities go just because it was unpaid. Money shouldn’t be your only motivation for taking up an internship. At this point (while in school), it should be about the experience and skills for your tomorrow!
Some employers tell their candidates the internship is unpaid in order to separate the ones who really want to learn from those who are all about the money. Most graduates who took advantage of unpaid internships have secured permanent employment with their internship organizations, as they seized the opportunity to learn and prove their worth. It is a long term investment – take advantage of it.
‘It might be free today, but the skills you acquire today will make money for you tomorrow’
- ‘I do not do anything when I go to work – This internship is not worth my time’
It is true some organizations do not really engage their interns because they are busy meeting their targets or they just do not have the right structure to train and engage interns. I believe this is the opportunity for you as an intern to be proactive, creative and find work for yourself. Ask your supervisors questions, observe how things operate and assist when you are not even assigned any task. Remember, employers are looking to hire graduates who are problem solvers, initiators and proactive.
‘There can never be nothing to do – find something to do’
- ‘My internship site is too far’
Sometimes when students seeking internship are so concerned about the distance and not the experience and skills they will obtain from the internship, I marvel. Wait! did you say distance? You want to wake up in the morning and just cross the street from your house and voila! You are at work!? It will be good training for you to move out of your comfort zone because success is not a smooth ride – there are a lot of sacrifices you ought to make. So if it means waking up very early to get to work on time, my dear intern, please do. You will learn how to manage your time, since you can’t afford to stay up late chatting, watching movies, etc. when you have to be up early the next morning. Allowing yourself to endure this discipline will go a long way to groom you for life after school.
- ‘My supervisors are not nice people’
This complaint I think should have been the first point to raise. Sorry, but I laugh when I hear students tell me they didn’t enjoy their internship just because their supervisor(s) were not nice to them. Hahahha! I think you should rather be grateful because this is the reality, and you have been faced with reality quite early in your career journey.
Please do not expect that everyone in the workplace will be nice to you – it’s just not possible, and the earlier you know the better. You can agree with me why there is a need to pursue an internship before you graduate. How else will you know that there are unfriendly people in the workplace too?
Unfortunately, people quit their jobs or their internship just for this reason. Remember it is to make you a better person, as it brings out the best in you. Your only response to the people you think are not nice is to be PROFESSIONAL. No need to respond with a negative attitude too. You are at work to deliver and that should be your focus. If you quit because of someone’s negative behaviour towards you, you might miss your future employment or business opportunity.
‘Remember the workplace is not a playground J ’
- ‘I quit my internship because I wasn’t assigned to the department I wanted’
First of all, thank your God you even have a place to do your internship. It is not easy to get a place to pursue an internship, even when you are ready to do it for free.
Before I move on, you must note that you cannot be an effective employee or business owner if you are narrow minded. It is dangerous if all you know about for example is Finance, and have no clue about other fields such as Marketing, Law, Politics, etc. In the work environment you need to understand every department’s role and how they fit into the ultimate goal of the business.
Yes, it might not be the department you want to be but no need to quit. Take advantage of any opportunity that comes your way, you might even find the role exciting! You might be studying Finance in school, and may end up doing Marketing in future.
I am sure you know people who studied Engineering and are not even practicing it.
Alternatively, you can talk to your HR or supervisor to change your department if possible. But quitting? It is a no no!
Yes the unemployment rate is high, but people are also getting hired. The doors might be shut in front of you because of some poor decisions you make today or are yet to make. Take advantage of any opportunity that will prepare you for life after school.