I have recently been consulted on my internship ‘expertise’ by the organisation I am working for. Having done several internship programmes in my bid to further my career, I unwittingly found myself being able to give advice on the one area of expertise I had built up – ‘being an intern’.
I have done some good internships and some not-so-good internships in the fledgling stages of my career. The organisation I now work for are in the process of designing a graduate internship programme and asked me for my honest opinion. It has been interesting to see the process from the other side, and the challenges faced by organisations wanting to take on an intern. Balancing limited funds with the desire to offer an attractive training package, and creating a scheme that would be valuable both for the organisation and the intern have been some of the obstacles to overcome. Having an input into the design of an internship programme has been great and encouraging to see an employer wanting to offer the best opportunity possible for an intern. It has been a fascinating insight behind the scenes of the work that goes into creating an internship.
There are still battles to be fought – many smaller organisations simply cannot afford to take on a full-time paid member of staff. Yet they greatly benefit from new graduates joining them, and often offer a wide-range of valuable work experience with the flexibility to tailor placements to individual needs and interests. Yet many graduates cannot commit to months or even a year unpaid, or at a low wage, having already invested so much in a degree and other qualifications up to that point.
Still, internships are becoming a rite of passage for most graduates wanting to get a foot in the door for their chosen career, and in a good internship the benefits often far outweigh the costs. I have been glad to see an internship from an employer’s point of view, and as I leave my current job in the third sector to return to life as an intern for a charity that works in international development in September, I hope that the desire to improve internships for prospective graduates results in much fairer opportunities for all interns.