Just like shoes, university courses, and Pokemon lures, not all internships are created equal. Some are enriching, inspirational experiences, where you learn more than you ever dreamed of about the profession, organisation and people that surround you. These types of internships categorically set you up for career success – these are the way internships should be. However, there are other types of internships – those that do not set you up for success. These are the ones that every intern has nightmares about. The ones where you sit in the corner on Facebook (if you’re lucky!), incessantly watching the clock until your internship ends and then you feel like a failure. No one wants these types of internships yet unfortunately, they still exist.
But how do you know which one you’ll get? Fortunately, the type of internship you end up with is well within your control. So for every international student who wants to make their internship count, here’s our advice on what you need to do:
Do your research
Like most things in life, thorough preparation is the key to choosing the right internship. You’ll need to research your potential host organisation, the person who will be your direct manager (to a degree – stalking not required!), and also you’ll need to understand your potential job description in more detail (if you’ve been provided with one). Your research to-do list should include:
Ask the right questions in the interview
Many international students believe that an interview is a one-way street where they are assessed for the job and that’s about it – but this is untrue. An interview is also your chance to (politely and respectfully) ask questions of your interviewer to ascertain whether the internship is right for you.
Asking the following questions will help you establish the quality of your internship:
Beyond the above questions, try to subtly assess your interviewer. Do they seem genuinely interested in your professional development? Do they seem eager to get you involved in their team? If so, they’ll be more likely to invest the time and energy required to provide you with a good experience.
Choose a reputable internship provider
Try as you might, it can be very difficult to pick a good internship from a bad one. Often, the signs just aren’t there and you might end up in a bad internship, despite your best efforts not to.
Herein lies the importance of choosing a reputable internship provider. The best internship providers always vet their host organisations to ensure they provide students with an enriching experience. They also put in place structures, such as learning agreements and regular catch ups, to ensure that both the student and host organisation are getting the most out of the internship.