Do I Really Need To Do An Internship? (The answer is yes!)

Thanks to Inspiring Interns for this guest post.

Every university student with an eye on their post-graduation employment has considered the internship question. To intern or not to intern?

Bad press means many students associate internships with exploitation. Unfortunately, a competitive graduate job market means they’re also increasing necessary: without an internship, only 11% of final year students secure a job offer before they graduate. For students with an internship under their belts, that figure jumps to 36%.

So yes, you kind of do need to do an internship to get ahead. Luckily, internships can be a fantastic experience, allowing you to develop new skills, earn money, and land your dream job!

Still not convinced? Read on:

“I Can’t Afford To Work For Free”

Nor should you! While the non-payment of interns is notorious, it is also illegal – if a company expects you to act like a worker then they must pay you minimum wage. Of course there will always be some rotten apples out there, but 4 out of 5 of internships do comply with this law.

Even if you are willing to work for free to get ahead, you may be doing yourself a disservice by doing so. Evidence suggests that while paid internships boost your career prospect, unpaid internships don’t increase your chances of employment at all.

“I Don’t Want To Be A Glorified Teaboy”

Fair enough – guess we’ll rule out that placement at PG Tips then! In all seriousness, most internships these days are much more than following a harassed HR manager around and photocopying endless pages of a report. A recent survey showed that 7 in 10 interns receive formal training, and two-thirds are given a structured work plan.

In the same study, 86% of interns claim to have gained career-enhancing skills on their placement, and 92% called their internship challenging and said it met their expectations.

“Employers Are Just Looking For Cheap Labour”

Actually, three-quarters of companies who employ interns do so on the assumption they’ll end up hiring them permanently. Internships are a way to prove yourself and show a business that you have what they’re looking for in an employee.

Remember that, no matter how good your grades are, when you first enter the world of work you probably will not have the experience or commercial awareness companies want from their staff. An internship is a way for them to train you up with the specific skills they need – making you a highly desirable hire at the end of it. That is why a whopping 98% of employers think internships provide candidates with highly desirable career skills.

“I’m Not Sure What I Want To Do”

Wouldn’t it be great, in that case, if you could try out an industry (or several!) for a short, fixed period of time, with no obligations to continue working there if you didn’t like it, and the opportunity to learn a lot about what working in that field would entail and whether it would suit you?

Sort of like an internship, in fact.

“I’ve Got A Degree; Getting A Job Will Be Easy!”

Sorry maestro, but no matter how awesome your dissertation on Venetian maritime history was most employers are still going to want you to have some, well, actual work experience. Unfortunately for you, they can afford to be picky – the average graduate job received 39 applications. Add on the fact that half of jobs are never advertised (they’re filled through the sort of networking you’d be exposed to as an intern) and the need to stand out from the crowd becomes pretty obvious.

The fact is that employers love internships as a route to filling their permanent jobs. They like hiring their own interns because it gives them a chance to judge how they work and how they fit in with the company culture. And they love hiring other people’s interns because they believe they’re equipped with the sort of skill set and commercial awareness that will make them successful.

All in all, your concern shouldn’t be about whether you do an internship but whether you do the right kind of internship. Pick one which pays, which develops new skills, and which allows you to make great industry connections and you’ll be one rung higher up your dream career ladder.

Beth Leslie writes graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment firm which specialises in matching candidates to their dream internship. To hire graduates or browse graduate jobs London, visit our website.