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Internships: Gateway to a career

January 13, 2013

Interns, a few years back, were not given enough importance and students were even conferred the Master’s degree without submitting any reports or proof of  practical experience in their respective disciplines. But internships now have become compulsory for students of higher educational institutions in order for them to learn the practical aspects of the subject in which they are enrolled in.

However, it is a very healthy and fruitful exercise that has been common practice for years. Still, treating it like any other academic project/course work, most students do not achieve the maximum gains from it. Nothing can be compared with internships in terms of getting professional knowledge during the student’s academic career. The main reason for not being able to take advantage of this practice is being unaware of its benefits and advantages. Besides, there is also a lack of guidance at the university level in context of how to apply for internship and how to turn it into a job opportunity.

The university/higher education institute plays no other role than issuance of a letter which only verifies the enrollment of the students in that institute. Mostly students apply for internships while presenting the letter to the organisations without any other formal documentation which does not at all leave a good impression. No matter, how keen and interested you are in interning, if your application is not submitted in a professional manner, you are treated less seriously and more as a formality if given a chance to serve the organisation. In fact, many of the candidates are not recruited as interns due to lack of formal procedure.

Students from the very first year of admission in a university should look for all the available options for internships. For some students, it can be too early to think about interning at this stage because the term itself is introduced to them in the third or final year of the programme. In this regard, the views and experiences of senior and passing out students can be very crucial and helpful. Apparently, each subject has multiple dimensions and it can be difficult for a newcomer to understand all of them. He or she definitely needs proper guidance to specify a particular area of subject to experience practical work in it. Before taking the final decision, a student must ensure whether he or she is interested in it or not.

No matter, what the scope of the field you are in, the whole experience can go in vain if gained without interest. So choose an area which you are passionate about. Internship can be both of the paid or unpaid kind but try and not be attracted by incentives at this point. Just pay attention to the relevancy.

After deciding on an area of interest, a student’s first pragmatic step should be a preparing a list of organisations of his/her selected dimensions, particularly those located within his/her hometown. That way it will be easier to communicate and collect information about internship opportunities at those places. If not then almost every organisation nowadays also has its own website where positions are announced for professionals, and interns, too. Students must regularly visit these websites to check for any updates in this regard. Besides, they can also write or make a call to the HR departments of these organisations to inquire about their internship policy.

If students succeed in finding a vacant position in their desired nature of work, they should apply for it in a formal manner. The interested candidates must prepare curriculum vitae (CV) along with a covering letter. The CV should carry all the personal information along with a mention of previous internships. The covering letter, meanwhile, should clearly state the main objective of the internship.

Both the documents along with the letter issued from the university can be emailed or posted on the given address. Candidates should also not just apply for internship in one organisation and wait for the response from there. They should keep on sending their details to multiple organisations.

Students most often apply for internships out of season. They visit the companies themselves drop their CVs at the reception and think that they have done their job. But they should be submitting their details to the HR department if they want to hear from them in the future. In some cases, it becomes really hard to clinch an internship in the preferred field. Your relations and contacts are the most helpful sources in such circumstances. They work as a reference for you. So always keep calm and maintain good relations with your teachers, seniors and the other people in your circle. You never know which person may help you when.

In order to achieve optimum results, the interns should try to actively participate in each activity held at the organisation they are working at and should accomplish the tasks assigned to them on time. If your manager is impressed with your active participation and improved performance, nobody can stop you from making a permanent space in that organisation. In this regard, the documentation of the daily progress report can be very beneficial for self evaluation and fine presentation of your completed tasks before your concerned department. During internship, you also should not be busy impressing your manager or head of department only, try to treat all your colleagues with equal respect. Do not forget to exchange contact details with all of them and keep in touch with them for future opportunities.

On the completion of your internship, you must write a detailed report stating all your learning experiences at the organisation. One copy of the report should be submitted to the university department for obtaining marks and another should be submitted to the concerned department of the organisation you interned with along with a gratitude letter for letting you work there.

The writer is an academic research consultant and a career counselor