Developing your own internship- revised version
Advantages of internships
There are vast advantages related to interning in any notable South African professional working environment. One could gain valuable wok experience and create a competitive edge for future job hunts and job seeking applications. They could serve as a “test drive” tool; a chance to experience a chosen field of study practically (type of work, atmosphere, hours involved etc). When interning one becomes immersed in a practical learning environment to put theories in to practice. In South Africans public higher institutes of learning much emphasis is put on theories than on real practice. Internships serve to put these theories in the light of the real world. It is also a networking opportunity to develop contacts, secure letters of recommendations and connect to possible future employers. A great way to champion South Africa’s employment challenges for you and on your own.
Many companies have well established internship programmes integrated in to their systems. However due to various factors and challenges in the workplace this might not always be the case considering typical South African corporate culture and economic units. For such cases developing your own internship could be a good strategy. This will obviously take time and effort. Persistence could come as a useful tool towards your progress.
The basic strategy
If you have to develop your internship, it clearly means there are no vacant internship positions available at your prospective companies. You will need to strategically plan your internship to achieve your desired internship. Typically a basic strategy will go as follows:
Before embarking on this lengthy mission, a fair amount research will be required on your part to ensure that you find the best placement in any company. Local companies are usually skeptical in hiring interns without a clear strategy and with insufficient research displayed on their proposals.
The big questions?
To start the process; a prospective intern would need to ask themselves most fundamental questions to win ahead:
What do you want to do?
In essence, it is vital to develop a clear idea of what skills you would like to use and what activities or tasks you would want to experience. This will in turn help you conduct a more focused internship search. Part of this big question involves keeping the following sub questions in mind during your search.
- Why do want an internship?
- What do you hope to learn?
- What sort of responsibilities would you like to pursue as a intern?
- What kind of duties would you like to undertake?
Answering all these questions and more basic questions you would initially have to ask your self will ultimately assist you in focusing your internship and making your intentions clear to prospective companies.
If you want to pursue several internships at the same time in various fields of study, keep in mind that it is important to stay organized and keep projects separate if the internships are at the same time. Though some companies could view this as a form of “moonlighting” and suggests lack of focus on your part and some could take it as your ability to multitask. It all depends on a company’s values.
The second big question
Where do you want to do your internship?
Answering this question would help you derive a unique strategy related to prospective company or companies. The best place to start is to take advantage of online resources. Visit prospective company’s websites; make use of their secondary research materials such as newspapers and magazines, business journals and any related source to help you gain more information on your field of interest , its related industry information and companies alike, this contributes in making you an active participant in the working scope of prospective companies.
Another effective tool of information could be informational interviewing, though this basic strategy terrifies most young graduates and professionals at entry level, speaking and networking directly with professionals already in the same field of interest as you could offer you a practical approach to avoid unnecessary hurdles in your career. Your networking process should be based on finding out what employers are looking for, career paths, corporate culture and industry trends. It is important to circulate when looking into developing your own internship, go to workshops related to your field and industry (usually advertised on the companies ‘websites and various interest groups magazines), go to expos and conferences and acquaint yourself with the right people and explore their environment.
The next step towards developing your internship involves implementing your research and derived strategies
Making the contact
By now you have a clear vision of your internship. Through your lengthy research, you should have identified companies that could be the right targets to setting up your internship. Instead of just sending emails and letters, it is imperative that you contact them directly and ask the right questions. Present or pitch your proposals directly to them. Build the confidence to ask if they have any open vacant intern posts (their internship programmes) If they don’t, suggest yourself available for any future opportunities they may consider.
A few of local companies still don’t have formal internship programmes and some hardly have any internship openings. This however should not discourage you in approaching them with your proposal. Based on the information you have so far collected and gathered through your research, you can then pitch for an intern programme you could set up in their company.
A lot of hopefuls usually are afraid to approach employers with their proposal; hence our society is rampaged with an increasing number of graduates and young professionals without work experience and rather sitting on their qualifications And just sending CV’s to “whom it may concern”. When one employer declines their offer, most of them just give up altogether.
On the other hand be prepared for companies to decline your offer for various reasons, this however should never be taken as a personal attack. One should just keep searching until they find an opportunity or an opportunity presents itself.
A clear description of your proposal is fundamental in the success of your internship. Be specific of what you are proposing. For instance the proposal might be based on specific project you know (through research) that the organization needs done. For example you could be certain that STATS S.A needs a certain project done and you could tailor make your proposal for that. The internship could be based on a specific position you know they are likely to have, perhaps ESKOM , Telkom or ASA etc have various programmes offered, then you would in that regard focus your proposal on that. Companies need People who know what they are looking for and what they can offer.
- A clear description of your service offering and why will the prospective company benefit from it
- Specify which project or position you would like to work on or be placed at
- Why are you the right candidate for their company
- Terms and conditions of your proposal: part time or full time , paid or unpaid etc
- A resume that outlines your academic experiences, work life, educational backgrounds, career objectives, extracurricular activities and attributes and any job experiences.
- A well crafted resume will come handy and reflect the qualities you posses.
A lot interns just send proposals without identifying the right people to who have the vested authority to hire.
The human resource department is usually the right place to start, depending on different companies and fields of work. For instance if you are looking for an internship in a magazine /press or media focused company like Avusa or Ndalo media it could be helpful to speak directly to editors to see if they are in need of your internship proposals rather than their corporate executives. Organizational websites can help you find contacts for the right persons to contact usually on the “about Us’ or “contact us” sections on their web pages. A couple phone calls will be useful in knowing who to speak to.
Part of your internship search involves appropriate follow ups. When prospective companies have received your proposal make sure to follow up in a polite manner without hurrying the process of evaluation of your proposal. This reinforces your commitment.
Last word of encouragement
Sourcing and developing your own internship maybe an exhausting often intimidating process but it needs persistence and determination to develop your own internship. Some companies may shut doors in front of you, discourage you or gatekeepers in a form of security guards, secretaries, receptionists or personal assistants who might discourage you for various reasons or because they are following protocol, but persist till you access the right people who might to your surprise accept your proposal.