Career Advice

Will an Internship Really Lead to a ‘Real’ Job?

min read
Mikaela Thompson

You know the feeling, that mixture of elation once the long haul of study is finally over, and excitement at the thought of working for money in a ‘real’ job.  Your mind wanders between scenarios of this new-found adulting. You know, those ones where you’re respected for contributing to society; where your grandparents claim bragging rights at their weekly mahjong sessions; where you proudly don some smart work threads to replace your questionable student fashion; and where you can now contemplate what to do with that hard earned cash. 

If only the transition from student to professional was that smooth! Securing that first job is no longer a case of picking and choosing from a range of open positions. Times are tough and new grads are confronted by the harsh reality that to get a ‘good’ job typically requires them to work for free. So, what should you do since most employers want work experience, and as a fresh grad, you’re likely to have none? Will an internship count? Let’s be honest, that's probably the only route open to you, apart from unemployment, at this point anyway.  Stress no more. There’s good news for you if you play it right. 

How to turn your internship experience into benefits for prospective employers.

Lucky for you, most hiring managers, recruiters and employers accept internship experience as valid work experience, whether paid, unpaid or for college course credits. Having said this, some will differentiate between academic and practical internships. The former are usually seen of less, to little value since it’s assumed you’ve already obtained the theoretical knowledge of the industry sector from your coursework. 

On the other hand, practical internships are typically perceived as valuable, ‘hands-on’ work experience which can lead to, or open doors to, full time employment, eventually. A small number may dismiss your internship experience regardless, saying it’s much more limited than real life exposure especially as there’s no performance appraisal or competency mapping…unless you can prove to them that your experience was doing real-world projects within a specific company where you were put under the same pressure and management workflow as a paid full-time employee there.  

A lot of how your internship will be perceived hinges on whether you can quantify this internship experience and describe it honestly as potential value-added to their company. So don’t be shy, give it a go. There’s nothing to lose and a lot to be gained. Just follow the guidelines below. 

Firstly, you need to get an initial interview, so include these internship experiences on your resume if: 

-  this is your first position applied for in your chosen field. Any work experience is worthwhile rather than none.

-  your intern experience relates to the role you’re applying for so that it will highlight your relevant qualifications.

- you had significant accomplishments during your internship, even though they aren’t directly related to this position. It’ll illustrate your potential value as an employee for this company.

Omit: if you’ve more relevant real-world experiences. 

The ‘how to’ of including your internship experiences on your resume.

Your internship/s can be a fantastic asset to your resume and improve your odds dramatically of landing a job interview, if you’re prepared to list it effectively with thought and attention.

Focus on:

- your responsibilities and achievements first. Detail the skills you learned, developed, and applied.

- If it’s possible, use data to quantify how you added value to the company you interned for. Hard numbers are difficult to ignore. 

- don’t hide your internship experience amongst other non-relevant jobs. It’ll serve you much better to create a category for this and place it either before or after your traditional work history, depending on the relevance of these other jobs to the position sought. 

- give due consideration to formatting. List the organisation’s name, location, time frame worked, title held and your role and responsibilities. Your internship category should be given the same amount of attention as the rest of your work history, if any. 

- when assessing the internship experience as years of work experience, it’s important to be realistic about the significant experience you’ve really added to your repertoire e.g., are you really equipped to meet the professional experience prerequisites for that job opportunity. You will need to use your best judgment to fairly assess this e.g., three summers of internship isn’t going to equate to three years of full-time work experience. Although there’s no way to translate internship experience into real-life work experience time values, try to give an honest approximation.

A key take out:

At the end of the day, be sure to value your internship experience as an opportunity to develop skills that will help you stand out from the other entry-level candidates. Adding this to your resume, demonstrates your willingness to use your initiative to learn more and grow as a professional – highly desirable traits to prospective employers.

Check out more tips on how to nail your next interview here!

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