pieces of a puzzle

November 15, 2016, by Carla Froggatt

Can’t Decide on a Career? Three Reasons to Apply for an Internship

By Claire Kilroy, Inspiring Interns

Some people have their whole lives planned out; they know what they want to do, how they’re going to get what they want, and by the time they get to university they’re already halfway there. Then there are the rest of us, who arrive at and sometimes even leave university with only the vaguest of ideas of what we want to do ‘when we grow up’.

If that’s you, don’t panic! You still have time to figure things out, and it’s not unusual to be in this position. After all, it is genuinely hard to know what career you want when you don’t have much experience in the workplace.

That’s where doing an internship comes in. These short-term placements allow you to dip your toes into the world of work, without the commitment that a permanent position demands. In fact, there are plenty of reasons why an internship is the perfect choice for the unsure student or graduate…

1. You’ll find out whether the job is for you

First and foremost, internships provide students and graduates with a taste of what they really need – reality. Not in the sense of understanding what it means to wake up early, commute, and earn a living – although that’s certainly part of it – but in that you finally get to see for yourself what a job is really like. Hearing someone talk about a job is one thing; actually doing it is another.

Of course, the best thing that could happen is that you’ll realise that the role is perfect for you, and that this is the sector you want to work in. However, finding out the opposite can be just as helpful. For example, if your internship with a bank leaves you absolutely certain that you never want to work in finance, you’ll have narrowed your options and probably saved yourself time down the line.

It’s much better to figure this out while you’re an intern; you’re only on a short-term contract, so you have an easy escape route.

2. Whatever you go on to, you’ll be more employable

Internships are a fantastic way to gain relevant skills and contacts in an industry. The graduate job market is pretty competitive – with employers receiving an average of 39 applications for each graduate job – so having an edge over other candidates is a real point in your favour.

However, if it turns out that you don’t want a career in that sector, your internship will still have given you valuable skills and experience. Employers looking to hire a graduate won’t expect you to have huge amounts of industry-specific knowledge, but they are on the lookout for certain key soft skills – like being a team-player, good communicator, leader, and problem-solver.

Don’t forget to make sure your employer is happy to write you a reference as well. Having someone who can testify to your work ethic and winning personality will help you out whatever you apply for next.

3. You’ll discover what work environment suits you

Some of the questions people ask to try and help you figure out what career you want can be baffling; if you’ve never worked either for a start-up or a big business, how should you know which one will suit you better?

The best way to find out is to try it. Both huge companies and tiny start-ups often offer internships for eager and motivated graduates, so you have chance to experience either, or both, if you want to.

An internship can also help you find out if you’re better suited to a more relaxed or a more corporate atmosphere in the office, whether you prefer working as part of a team or alone, and whether you like being allowed more independence over your work or are more comfortable working closely with your manager.

Each little bit of the puzzle that clicks into place will make the future seem a little clearer, and help you decide what you want to go on to do.

You can find more information about internships on the Careers website, and if you fancy trying out life with a local company, don’t forget to check out the Nottingham Internship Scheme

Claire Kilroy is a content writer for leading graduate recruitment agency Inspiring Interns. Check them out if you’re on the hunt for internships or graduate jobs, or check out their blog for more graduate careers advice.

Image credit: Hans

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