INTERNSHIPS & MONEY MATTERS
What are your teens and young adults doing this long holiday? Of course after a gruelling academic year, there is a need to unwind, rest and rejuvenate, but they don't need to spend close to 3 months and more holidaying. The long holidays should be more than just a vacation; it is a career opportunity.
Grades do matter but…
From a very young age, students are trained and expected to get the best grades possible. However, the truth is that having good grades doesn’t necessarily translate into a job or make you a great employee. Employers don’t consider academic grades as the be all and end all for candidates anymore.
Of course your ‘A’ grades will win you accolades (particularly from Nigerian parents), but employers look for work experience in addition to exam or coursework grades and an array of extracurricular activities and interests in their search for top candidates. An internship often gives students an edge.
Theory and Practice
It is on the job that you can truly hone some professional skills and gain hands on real world experience outside the classroom focused largely on the theoretical. Theory is important but it comes alive when you are given an opportunity to put that knowledge into practice. This prepares you to go back to school equipped with greater understanding and fresh perspectives on the subject matter reinforcing classroom concepts.
Interning offers opportunities for you to work closely with others in a team. This throws up many aspects of character, leadership, collaboration, technical skills, managing deadlines, responsibility etc. It is from this that a sound work ethic can be built.
Get a foot in the door
An internship can lead to a full-time job at your host company. If you've left a great impression that you are hardworking, committed, intelligent and capable, you are certainly in a more competitive position to be considered than even those with far superior grades since your bosses are already familiar with your work ethic.
Internships have been described as an “audition in disguise,” an ideal way for both employer and intern to test the waters for a short time before committing to it fully. If you’ve impressed them, you’ll probably make the final list.
Is this the right path for you?
So many young people embark on a path only to find after considerable time and expense, that they do not wish to pursue that direction. It’s best to know as early as possible.
An internship usually lasts for about 3 – 6 months. This is a great opportunity to test out a job or career path with enough time to learn whether or not it is a good fit without a long-term commitment. If you have not yet decided which direction to go, try various sectors during each vacation; different careers demand varying skill sets. This way, you get a wide range of experience under your belt and can begin to narrow down your choices as it highlights your strengths and where you tend to struggle.
Apart from the formal roles, there are numerous other opportunities to consider; from volunteering and community service, helping at a summer camp, waiting tables in a restaurant, sales clerk at a local store. This is also an ideal time to consider setting up and running your own business, which impresses employers no end.
Relevant work experience
Ideally an internship you are choosing should be related to the field that you wish to pursue. If you already have an idea of the path that you wish to pursue, select a firm in that field which will help equip you to prepare for future interviews and direction by gaining invaluable industry knowledge.
Employers prefer to choose candidates that have some experience that is relevant to the position they are actually hiring for; this puts you up on the learning curve and helps you settle into a new role with ease.
Your network is your net worth
Professional connections are among the most valuable networks that you can have in your life. Even if you are not retained for a full-time position, the networks that you build from the stint can be invaluable whether for providing mentoring and support as you grow, or for career advice, references or recommendations for your next job.
Find and latch on to a mentor, but remember that a senior colleague will take an interest in an interested, committed, hardworking intern and not someone that it always late, unresponsive, and adds little or no value.
Should money be a factor?
Naturally, some students might have to turn down an excellent but unpaid internship opportunity; this significantly limits available opportunities. As far as possible, try not to let money be the deciding factor when you are thinking of interning. Gaining useful experience should be your goal for the value it will bring to your resume and your personal life.
One of the greatest benefits of interning is earning and learning to manage your own money. Money that you have earned from your own sweat tends to have more meaning than with “free” pocket money or allowances. Hard work builds frugality; when the money comes out of your own pocket, you are more selective about purchases and are less likely to spend it frivolously.
Time is a fundamental ingredient of successful investing as funds set aside have time to appreciate in value. This presents a wonderful opportunity to set aside at least part of your income and begin the journey to financial independence. Mutual funds are ideal for small savers with entry as low as N5,000; the key is to be consistent and to think long term.
And a word for parents…
Going out to work every day is usually the first step to financial responsibility. It is not the amount of money your child earns, but the lessons learned that counts. The sense of independence and accomplishment provides a child with a solid foundation for their development and when they leave home, you can be confident that they can step out into the world and fend for themselves.