With the constant changes we see in the workforce today and the need for continuous learning to stay ahead of the curve, it isn’t surprising to see that the main value proposition of an internship is often how much you learn.
In fact, many job seekers are now utilizing internship experience as a kind of pre-qualifier, and put it on personal profiles across the internet to promote and position themselves for job offers. (For advice on what NOT to do in an online or social media profile if you’re using it for this purpose to find work, read my post on the LRNGO.com/blog called Which One Would You Hire?)
However, what’s even more interesting now is the increasing number of programs that actually require real work experience as part of the path. For example, Europe recently rolled out Erasmus +, an $18 billion initiative that requires all college students to work for one year in their area of expertise before they receive their degree. What do they see in Europe that we don’t?
Perhaps it’s that the disconnect between learning and applying what you’ve learned is greater than we thought or that the transition from learning in academia to learning in the workplace is not as straightforward as we once imagined. Either way, adaptation to the workforce environment for college graduates seems to be stressed now in some other countries in a way that we still haven’t seen here.
For instance, in South Africa, they have what they call a learnership. A learnership is a means of obtaining a standard work-based certification or qualification while working. It is distinguishable from an internship (which they have as well) by the fact that the credit received is a work-based certification rather than an academic credit.
I think it might be good advice to think of one’s internship as a “learnership.” What I mean by that is to think about your learning objectives, and then, use them as a guide for finding a position that is the right fit.
For example: Your learning objectives should answer the question, “What will I be able to DO as a result of this internship experience, and how does that apply to my chosen career path?” The more specific your answers are, the better your chances that the internship will be successful.
Answering the question by listing three specific skills you want to master is also often a helpful exercise. Of course, you do have to be realistic; you’re chances of becoming a server side architect in three months if you’ve never taken a computer or math class are likely about as good as playing Rachmaninoff in three months if you’ve never touched a piano. (For you non-musicians out there, that’s pretty much impossible.)
The point is that drilling down on the specifics of what you want to learn from the experience is a necessary first step to making it worthwhile. Then, when you add that experience to your social media and other online profiles to position yourself to find a job, it will be more than just an indicator that you’ve done some work. Instead, it will indicate real ability in your field.