Karen Lomas
July 5, 2017

Should you accept an internship?

I have been asked by parents and students, “should you accept an internship?” many times over the past few years.

Internships are being used as training grounds by many organisations, and many young adults and their parents are concerned about the fairness of these schemes.

The reality is that internships are a fact of working life for many students and anyone in career transition.

Educators are trying everything they can to make their graduates employable, which is why they are building internships into their courses and offering credits for those placements. It means that the institution can claim to have given students “hands-on” exposure to work.

From the point of view of organisations, to offer internships is also a way for them to ‘grab’ the best students and graduates, and then once they know what the intern is like, they might offer the young person a more secure position, as maybe a Graduate Trainee.

According to interns interviewed by Ann Arnold, for ABC Radio’s program, Best Practice, an internship can be “great” and “life changing”, but they’re not always fair and may not lead to paid employment. Advocates for interns argue that nobody should do unpaid internships, and they are lobbying for change. However, the risk of this is that employers may then not offer any such placements. This could change should governments offer employers subsidies in order to support the system. But as things stand, students and graduates are stuck with having to negotiate.

So internships benefit higher education providers and employers, but what is in in for you or your young adult? I speak from experience when I say that internships can and do open doors. But your young adult student/graduate needs to be careful. When they approach an organisation for an internship, they need to:

  • do their homework – look at the organisation’s website, vacancies list, “About” page, history, their people, values, client base
  • find out what the duties will be
  • who will their hands-on support/supervisor be
  • how long the internship will last
  • whether there is any compensation, hourly pay if any, travel costs
  • what hours and days they are expected to work
  • what requirements there may be in terms of dress-code
  • will they be able to obtain a reference at the end of the internship
  • what possibility for employment exists at the end of the internship, such as Graduate Programs
  • ask the interviewer what they like about the organisation/how they came to be working there

Without doing such checks some employers can and do take advantage.  A very respected organisation was “cheeky” with a client of mine and kept moving the goal-posts. An employee left the company, and my client was given that paid person’s duties and responsibilites for no pay, was asked to do more days unpaid. This is when you need to use some negotiation skills -and that’s for another blog!

So, should you accept an internship? Yes, if you, your son or daugher has done the necessary due diligence. Internships are here to stay. I even did one in my 40s and it was well worth it.





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