The intern: internships 101
When you hear the word ‘intern’, it’s hard not to picture an over-zealous, over-achiever; someone eager to please, yet piled high with menial tasks. Hollywood has done the term no favours.
Despite their dubious rap, internships are still prized possessions in building a career. And the benefits are not one sided, with many organisations adopting an internship program and gaining much more than an extra pair of hands.
The definition of an internship
An internship is defined as the opportunity for an individual to work temporarily with another team or organisation in order to gain new knowledge, skills or experience to compliment the next step in their career. An internship is structured, paid work over a finite period of time and where there’s an implied level of education or training.
On the other hand, work experience, often confused with an internship, is typically the first foray into a professional working environment, where requirements, expectations and the level of responsibility is low.
The benefits of an internship for an organisation
An internship is a two-way transaction, with benefits being reaped on both sides of the equation. For employers, one of the biggest carrots is access to up-and-coming talent. An internship provides the recipient with the opportunity for an extended job interview, as well as affording the employer the ability to see their skills in action.
In addition, an internship can offer mentoring and coaching opportunities for staff. The basics of work flow planning, resource management, training and performance management can all be learnt from the responsibility of looking after the intern. This is a great way to afford a staff member exposure to management responsibilities without increasing head count.
The addition of any individual to a team stimulates a natural shift in thinking and work patterns. Adding in an intern also provides access to fresh perspectives and new ideas which can be particularly useful for established teams. If the intern is or has recently completed tertiary education, then they can also provide insight into the latest teaching in your industry, ensuring that the internship is a true intellectual transaction.
Internships aren’t just for students
While we tend to think of an internship in the realms of the student or graduate, there’s also a movement of organisations that promote internships, or secondments, for their own staff to experience and learn from other areas of the business.
SEEK itself has a secondment program that provides opportunities for employees to grow their careers internally through placements and training within disciplines across the business’ various professional teams, domestically and abroad. For staff this is a great way to ‘try before your buy’ a career move or extend the longevity of their employment with the company, given the opportunity for new challenges and growth.
For the employer, secondments can be an excellent way to meet an internal need quickly, source and retain strong talent and ensure depth of skill and knowledge is developed across employees. At its heart, an internship is about a transaction of knowledge, one in which both parties are getting a good deal.