Friday, August 24, 2012

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The benefits of doing an internship

In the current economic climate, it can be very difficult to land a safe, secure job. While even some of the more experienced employees are being laid off these days, people with no experience whatsoever find it hard to secure a job in the first place. While internships have been around as long as people have been willing to participate in them, they are becoming more common and sometimes even replace full-time/part-time employees as a (cheeky) way of cutting costs. But there are still many benefits to doing an internship!

 Needless to say, everybody has different circumstances and I can only talk about my own situation; my own experience. As such, I'd like to focus on the situation of university students and how the necessity of an internship will differ depending on a variety of factors including your financial situation, your network of contacts and most importantly, the subject(s) you are studying or have studied at university. While I'm an Englishman doing an internship in Japan, the truths (as well as painful truths) regarding internships stay the same wherever you are.

So, exactly how can you benefit from doing an internship? Well, let's take a look at this word "benefit" and derive a few different meanings from it:


The most common reason to enter a company as an intern is to gain experience. As I mentioned earlier, one of the big deal-breakers on you getting that dream job is experience. In most cases, a full-time job listing will require the candidate to have at least some experience in that field or a related field. But what happens when you have just come out of university looking for a job in an area like corporate finance, and you only have experience working in a supermarket? It's quite ironic that while you often need experience to be successful in your job application, the only way you can get experience is by having a job or doing an internship/apprenticeship.

you need to be a cog if you want to get into the system!

While doing an internship might not necessarily lead to a full-time position at that company, it will (hopefully) still be a valuable learning experience, something to put on your CV and something to woo your potential future employer during the interview.

Although I'll be dealing with this in more detail in the coming week, my degree pretty much necessitates an internship. There are so many people studying business that it really takes something special to set you apart from the crowd. I'm very lucky in that my company has given me a wide range of meaningful tasks and has allowed me free reign to go to any area and ask as many questions as I like on any topic. While I've learnt about various topics in university, they are really starting to hold water now that I've seen popular concepts practices being implemented in front of my very eyes.

Character Building

While many people fail to get a job because they have no experience, others sometimes refrain from applying for jobs in the first place because they don't feel they are ready for it. Although this feeling of butterflies in the stomach will disappear after you've had a job for a while, it can still get to some people. I can tell you that doing an internship may be a very empowering experience. While it will depend entirely on the responsibilities and tasks given you, it might be surprising and even a self-esteem building exercise to see how much responsibility the company is willing to give you.

When I first arrived at Marutaka Techno, I was presented straight away with the "schedule" of my internship, including a detailed breakdown of what I would be doing. Three weeks into the internship, I have been tasked with contacting large UK companies and re-working product brochures into something that might attract UK clients. Although it's not guaranteed that they will ever decide to (or be able to) do business in the UK, the fact that they trust me to represent the company has done wonders for my confidence.


They say that money makes the world go round and, well let's be honest, it does! While I'm not receiving any pay for my internship (partly because it would void my visa and put me in danger of being deported from Japan) and a large amount of internships are unpaid,  paid internships are out there if you're what they are looking for. On a side note, the company isn't paying me for the work I'm doing now, but I'm living in an apartment rented out by them for free and they also bought a £100 bike for me to go to work every day (my travel costs are £0) so it's not all doom and gloom!

Whether or not you get paid will often depend on what your internship entails. There's apparently no legal substance to the word "intern", so when the organisation/company takes you on, your legal status will depend on what you're doing. I'm not an expert on the legal nitty-gritty and I would expect it to be difficult to prove that you were entitled to pay even when a company refuses to do so. Also, mine is a special case in the sense that I'm a foreigner working in a Japanese company on a student visa. If you'd like to get more specific details on the UK situation, please have a look at this article on

Stepping stones

Taking on an employee can be seen as an investment if one considers that a worker is assisting the company in turning a profit. With that said, a worker that doesn't perform as well as expected, or is simply not qualified to do the job at the required standard, will not be contributing enough to make their employment a worthwhile investment. Although we all want to be paid a good salary, we should look at things from their perspective.

just make sure you don't fall into the drink!

Are you worth employing?
If so, how can you prove it?
Are you what the company is looking for?

Even after you have graced the company with your CV, there's no way for them to be sure that you are right for them and their needs as a business. After taking you in as an internship for short period, the managers (and HR staff in the case of larger firms) can make a more informed decision about you.

Although I'm not getting paid and I can't be 100% sure about whether my company really does want to employ me after this period, I'm at least putting myself out there and saying,

"Look at me! I can speak decent Japanese, I have some business knowledge and I'm trying my best to  benefit your company!"

It's much better to be proactive instead of sitting at home and saying,

"I wish some company would recognise my skills and give me a job.."

don't give in to negativity!

While there is a decent chance that you will be offered a full-time job if you perform to or above the standards expected of you, there is always a chance that the company never had any real intention of employing you at all. The unfortunate reality is that businesses will always try to increase their margins (who wouldn't?) and innocent interns are often caught in the crossfire. 

Even if this is the case, you may come into contact with senior staff who know other companies that might be interested in you, or you may even come into contact directly with highly placed members of staff from other companies during your internship. These are all stepping stones and represent opportunities for you to literally get your foot in the door.


So now that you know the potential benefits associated with becoming an intern, give yourself a pat on the back, have yourself a lettuce leaf and brace yourself for the potential risks that you expose yourself to when deciding to do an internship. I'm sorry to end this post on a negative note, but we have to look at both sides of the coin and be realistic. You would probably only experience all of the above mentioned benefits in the best case scenario, but if your expectations are too high you are only setting yourself up for a big fall.

I will be a bit busy editing product brochures over the weekend  so I will aim to have my next post ready by Tuesday at the latest!

As always, thank you very much for reading and I look forward to seeing you again next time!


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