Why Be an Intern?

In 2017, over half of university graduates won’t go onto a graduate scheme. If you were one of the few to get one of those schemes, then congratulations. Personally, the thought of going into a graduate scheme was the last thing I wanted to do during my final year of university. This was mainly due to a lack of creative options in graduate programmes.

I graduated in July 2016, today I am an intern on very little pay in the centre of London. Doesn’t sound ideal right? Wrong.

I have two rules in the way I live my life:

  1. You can only measure your success through your own happiness. Don’t compare yourself or your happiness to those around you or to the people getting paid 35k a year when secretly they’re miserable because of it. Enjoy what you are doing and be smart about your decision making.

  2. Be selfish in life but be kind while you are doing it. In every industry, there are a variety of ways in. Personally, I find the most effective way of getting into a new line of work is networking. Email, communicate and, most importantly, be open to learning and starting from the bottom.

I managed to get my intern position through a friend who had also interned there. I emailed them, called them, met them and went out of my way to make sure they knew I was excited and ready to get stuck in. I was also lucky to be able to stay with family about an hour and a half away from London so have managed to commute every day. The interning life is not glamorous at times and if you are anything like me you want to rule the roost of every place you walk into, except that can’t always be the case.

My current role is in a media company that creates apps, websites and social content for external companies and this is something that I had never experienced before but found interesting coming from a Fine Art degree. I am very happy to say that I have loved my internship and they have even extended my original contract of one month to two months for more experience. I also realise that you could be reading this thinking I am crazy because I should be out earning lots of money, especially in London, but there are endless amounts of things I have learnt while being here. So why should you consider an internship and if you do, what should you think about? Here are my key pointers:

  • Preparation and sacrifice – To go into an internship paid or unpaid, you need to be prepared. For me, it was a financial hit. I moved from being in full-time employment to now paying £500 on transport to get me to a role that has less income. However, I prepared myself for this and saved up money over that seven month period in order to sacrifice and take a little risk for once in my life. If anything this dedication, along with the three hour commute each day, hasn’t gone unnoticed. For others, this sacrifice could be your pride. Yes, you may do the odd lunch run… Get over it.

  • Funnily enough, you don’t know much – I spent £36,000 on a Fine Art degree but I can genuinely say I have learnt more in the last month than I did in my entire degree. For the first two weeks of my internship I constantly thought I wasn’t good enough to be there and definitely felt at the bottom of the pack even though I felt so welcomed. It wasn’t until a brief conversation over a lunch time that someone mentioned that it takes time and experience for someone to learn a skill and why should graduates expect to just know everything, because we don’t. From there I learnt to relax, enjoy, listen and have learnt so many new skills just from admitting to myself that I was there to be taught and not to be the best. I didn’t have to know it all.

  • Be brave, ask questions – Take advantage of where you are. Ask to sit in meetings, talk to clients and ask every silly question you can. I must blush about three times a day because I ask something stupid, but they also notice that I ask…(I ask some smart things too). Ask your line manager for goals and structure along your internship so they can assist you in documenting what you have learnt, but also to help you see any skills you haven’t.

  • Be keen, but not too keen - You may be the intern but throw yourself into every job or activity given to you. I personally treat my role like a full-time job and have even convinced myself that it’s true. Most importantly, I like to think I will convince the others around me. At the end of the day, this is an internship and no one owes you anything, but if you make the most of every experience and keep track of all the new skills you have learnt then you can apply it to anything! I never knew I would be so interested in a digital media role, but I have been won over completely! Interning can give you that opportunity to experience new roles in a short period so it is completely worth doing if you are unsure of your career path.

  • You don’t always need to go to university – I had the best three years of my life at uni but that wasn’t because of the degree. Now I’m in my media role I’ve realised that uni wasn’t a necessity to me being where I am and in fact there are people younger than me who interned straight out of school and work there full-time. If you are unsure about going to university, there are so many options out there instead and many that could suit you better. Take your time, have a break and get to know what could really benefit you and make you happy.

At the end of the day, we all have different paths in life. I guess the most I have learnt since graduating is that this is my opportunity to be independent and explore different career paths. Don’t be afraid to be that person who will volunteer for more experience and an internship is the perfect way to do that. In this day and age, it may get you further than you expect.