In the fast-paced 21st century economy, internships have become an integral first step to entering the workforce. From medicine to journalism to marketing and everything between, interning as a student or recent graduate is your ticket into the “big show” — that formerly distant ideal of making a living through your field of choice.
More than a necessary evil, internships give you the chance to dip your toes into whatever areas you please before committing to a career path. Employers may have the power to pick and choose who they hire and fire, but interns have some power as well; the flexibility to try out different fields, do multiple things at once, and keep their options otherwise open. That versatility shouldn’t be valued lightly.
But finding and securing an internship can be daunting from the outset. You’ve probably heard lots about the process from lots of different people. So where to even begin? Internship programs are a great place to start; and to help guide you along the right path, we’ve compiled answers to some of the most frequently asked questions that you’ll come across.
What are internship programs?
A standard definition of an internship is “the position of a student or trainee who works in an organization, sometimes without pay, in order to gain work experience or satisfy requirements for a qualification.” An internship program is simply a company or organization that serves as the middleman in this equation; helping you to find and secure the right internship, then guiding you through the process from beginning to end.
Can I only do internship programs in my own country?
Nope — you can do internship programs abroad (and might we add, these are extra-cool and make your resume extra-likely to float to the top of the pile!). Internship programs enable you to work all over the world; in fact, this is arguably the single greatest benefit of going through a program rather than directly applying to an employer in the first place. Finding work internationally can be an extremely complex process (especially if there is a language barrier involved). Global internship programs, on the other hand, maintain expansive international networks and offices all over the world.
If you want to work in an international field, learn a new language, put a gold star on your resume, or simply travel and see the world, then global internship programs are the way to go. The type of flexibility that internship programs provide doesn’t come around at too many points in a career, and should be taken full advantage of. Major global cities such as London, Paris, Tokyo, Shanghai, and Sydney are all great places to intern abroad and can lead to exciting opportunities down the line.
Recommended internship programs around the world
Start your search with these reputable programs around the world:
- Take advantage of affordable internships provided by Intern Abroad HQ
- Intern around the world with the Institute for Global Studies
- Put some extra polish on your resume interning with Connect 123
- Kickstart your career with internship programs through GVI
- Intern abroad with Cross Cultural Solutions
- Gain valuable work experience abroad with IES Internships
What should I focus on during my internship program?
The pragmatic response is working your tail off. Regardless of whether you end up working full time for the employer you’re interning for, proving yourself a hard worker in the process can only pay good dividends. This is a great opportunity to establish a network in a field you are considering working within, so be mindful of that even if you view the internship as just a temporary stop.
The more inspired response, and one that is no less valuable, is to focus on learning. An internship is a unique chance to test out the ropes and get a feel for the industry you’re interested in working in. Treating internship programs as educational opportunities, in the sense that they provide you the chance to get a taste of what working in that industry is really like, can be equally as important as the professional networking aspect at the outset of your career.
Are internship programs typically paid?
You may have already guessed the answer to this one: it depends. Profitable industries will often pay their interns fairly, while internship programs in the public sectors or in the arts, for example, will prove more of a long shot for compensation. Internship programs themselves will often charge you also for finders fees and other costs such as housing, transportation, and meals. Simply put — don’t expect to get a positive net income out of the experience. That’s reserved for when you get a full time job.
How long do internship programs last?
Internship programs typically last between three and six months. Summer internships are popular among active students, and these tend to be on the shorter end so that they fit between school semesters. For recent graduates, six month internships can be equally as common, with the pending opportunity to transition into a full time position. Employers are understandably more flexible with internships than full time positions, so it’s possible to negotiate a length of contract that works for you.
What kind of work do internship programs entail?
You should expect to have a mix of responsibilities while working your internship, ranging from stereotypical mundane office tasks to acquiring more significant creative license as the internship program goes on. A good strategy as an intern is simply to jump at every opportunity offered you, carving out a role as you go. Often interns are brought into a company with no concrete role apart from helping out where help is needed. This can provide major opportunity to determine the shape of your own role.
Should I expect a job out of my internship program?
Landing a full time job from your internship is far from a certain bet; in fact, it’s more rare than it is common in most lines of work. If you are still in school during your internship, this need not be a major concern. Just work hard and maintain good relations with your employer while you finish out your degree. Don’t hesitate to discuss future possibilities after graduation.
If currently on the job market and looking for a full-time position, then knowing from the outset whether your internship will turn into a job or not can be a more stressful prospect. The best way to go about it is to work as hard as you can and prove yourself to be an asset — but don’t expect anything in return. Stay versatile and keep your options open. If when your internship program is complete your employer is interested in bringing you on full time, this can be a big bonus if the feeling is mutual. But it shouldn’t be expected.