Tuesday, September 4, 2012

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Wait... what exactly is an internship?

I've been going on for a while about internships and my experience as an intern at a Japanese company, but exactly what is an internship? The words "intern" and "internship" don't really have any legal definition or basis in UK law, but there are a few definitions scattered around the web to give us a bit of an idea of both what interns should expect and what should be expected of them

The Free Dictionary

"A student or a recent graduate undergoing supervised practical training."

"any official or formal program to provide practical experience for beginners in an occupation or profession: an internship for management trainees."

"any period of time during which a beginner acquires experience in an occupation, profession, or pursuit"

Prospects - What is an internship?

"An internship is a fixed limited period of time spent within industry. Some students do an internship as a compulsory part of their degree while others choose to do one. With each company it can differ lasting anything from one week to a year and can be part time or full time. As with the length, the payment that is offered depends on the company. You could receive minimum wage, have just your costs covered or in some cases receive nothing at all.
Usually certain jobs are set aside for interns to do, such as helping with a company project. It is a good way to explore an industry and network to build up your contacts for your future career. There are certain industries where an internship, or unpaid work experience, is the only way in for most people."

Graduate Advantage - What is an internship?

"An internship is a period of work experience offered by an employer to give students and graduates exposure to the working environment, often within a specific industry, which relates to their field of study.
Internships can be as short as a week or as long as 12 months. They can be paid or voluntary; however, before you start an internship it’s important to know your rights with regards to getting paid.
Internships can be done in a range of sectors, including sales, marketing, engineering, graphic design, management, I.T. and many, many more. Throughout an internship you will develop a variety of soft skills, including communication skills, personal effectiveness, presentation skills, creative problem solving and influencing skills."

Clearly, the details of any internship will differ depending on the industry. Some occupations require significant training before proficiency is achieved. A good example of this would be a job involving a lot of numbers and specific procedures. In contrast, writing for a magazine or marketing firm will probably require practice with a pinch of trial-and-error rather than step-by-step training, as there is no definitive way to write an article. Having said that, we can draw a base definition from the websites quoted above.

To sum up, let's say that an internship should be an opportunity for someone to gain work experience through practical training, building upon the skills learned in the classroom. It is difficult to gauge the appropriateness of what you are asked to do until you know what it is you are expecting to be doing.
During my internship, I have been guided around the company facilities and have spent the best part of a week in the company showroom, getting to know the products like the back of my hand. I've been editing product brochures and preparing emails to send to UK companies. My internship has (so far) been a mix of learning and practical hands-on experience so I can certainly say that my internship more or less matches the criteria above! While I can't guarantee that your internship will be as fulfilling as mine, I have my fingers crossed for you!


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