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Have you ever been told at an interview, “We found your application amazing but we will first take you as an intern and…” How did it make you feel? How about seeing an ad like “Company A is taking interns. Click here to apply.” Were you moved to apply? Or did you just skip over it like you never saw it in the first place? Why exactly does the title “Intern” scare most Nigerian job seekers?
What is Scary About the Title “Intern”?
It is a common myth among Nigerian job seekers that the role of an intern is absolutely demeaning. Now if we’re being completely honest, it’s not entirely your fault for thinking this way. Nigerians are used to hearing stories of interns who were exploited by their companies. These stories usually come in one of two forms; Gross overutilization or Underutilization.
Having interviewed various interns whose identities and company names will remain anonymous for obvious reasons, one claimed they would resume at work every day and he would do nothing except getting sent on occasional errands. Such errands include getting take-out food for their superiors from the nearest restaurant (or “mama-put”, as it is popularly known), or going to the bank on behalf of the accounting department. The other extreme was from a 4th-year university student who, during his 6-months internship, had to work 16 hours of night duty including staying all weekend from Friday night through Monday morning once in two weeks… alone! Yes, the actual company staff do not participate in night and weekend duty, it’s just the interns. And all this for what? Peanut-pay at the end of the month.
These are bad experiences we’ve heard from interns, and we’re sure there are even worse stories out there. But does it justify the phobia for internships? I think not. Let us take a dive and look into internship and what it actually is.
What is an Internship? Who is an Intern?
An intern is a trainee, most of the time a student, who attaches himself to an establishment for a while to gain work experience or to meet the requirements for a degree or some other type of qualification. Internships can be with or without pay, most times, depending on the company policy and individual agreement.
In Nigeria, most university courses require students in their penultimate year to go on a compulsory 6-months industrial work experience, classified as an internship. Other forms of internship include the year-long industrial experience for Polytechnic students or any form of training you undergo for a particular job.
Why Should You Be Open to Internships?
It is not unheard of that some interns should have terrible experiences like the ones previously described. However, this is not unlike literally everything else. There’s nothing without a downside to it when you think about it. But when you picture the positives, you realize that internships do present tons of opportunities for those who participate. Some of those include;
Transition into Full Staff:
Probably one of the most tangible benefits of an internship is that it provides you an opportunity to move in and become a full staff of the establishment. Being a familiar face in the company and already in tune with their policies, needing little training/integration into the system, most companies would be more than willing to retain you after your internship.
Building Your Network
“Your network is your net worth” is a saying that you’ve probably already heard countless times. This saying holds most of the time as the role of one’s contacts in building a career cannot be overemphasized. The relationships you build within the establishment during your internship can prove to be even life-changing.
A lot of people find mentors during their internships who guide them through various subsequent journeys; career and otherwise, for you or someone else through you. If you ever get to be an intern, building relationships is something you should work on.
Exploring a Career Path
While in school, you get to study a whole variety of subjects; some closely related and others almost completely mutually exclusive. Now, some people are self-aware and know exactly what they want early enough, while late bloomers may not discover themselves quite as early. These may have identified a few interests, but remain inconclusive on which career path to pursue.
Running an internship helps you get a taste of a particular career, thus opening your eyes to its reality and helping you determine whether or not you will move forward with it. In other words, an internship can help you cross off or make up your mind concerning a career path.
Gaining Job Experience
Hands-on experience in the real labor market is an asset you simply cannot gain if you do not go into the labor market. It’s one thing to learn how to calculate and resolve variables on paper, it’s another to calculate the best way to tackle a malfunctioning engine in the workshop. It’s one thing to write a paper or an experiment report, it’s another to write a monthly job report.
In the workplace, you learn how to communicate better, relate with people of different age brackets and work with a team. You learn accountability, communications, proficiency with professional software and real-life devices instead of just simulations. Most of all, you gain confidence and you understand yourself better. At the end of your internship, you will be in a better position to tell what you want and what you don’t want from a work environment. You’d have gotten an interview experience or two and learn how to better negotiate and keep your cool during interviews. You will be more refined.
Make Some Buck
A lot of interns are indeed underpaid, and some not at all. However, it is also true that there are nigh as many who make a decent buck. Certain Nigerian companies are known to pay their interns as high as NGN 60,000. This is even higher than some junior staff of other companies earn.
That it didn’t go too well for someone else doesn’t mean it will be the same for you and vice versa. You simply have to try to get the best out of every opportunity that comes your way.
Improve your CV/Resume
After your internship experience, you already have an extra element for your CV. One thing this does for you is present you as a responsible person who puts himself out there to gain knowledge and serve the community.
Also, if you were lucky enough to intern with a well-known establishment, competitors will be willing to take you, believing in all the knowledge and experience you must have gained in your time there.
Finally, your place of internship provides you with one more entity on your CV’s recommendation list. You could get a letter from where you worked, stating your contributions in your time there. Such a letter could give you the edge in pursuing future opportunities.
The major reason Nigerian job seekers are scared of internships is the pseudo-stigma that has been attached to the word “intern”. It’s easy to feel looked down on in the workplace when you’re putting your best and everyone keeps calling you “I-T” and making you do things you don’t think you signed up for. However, the benefits to be gotten from an internship experience are invaluable.
So go today, look for opportunities on AtYourService, LinkedIn, and the likes, apply for that internship, and develop yourself. You never know what might come out of it.