7 tips for internships and what it entails

A young lady writes in her notebook.

An internship is an exciting time for young graduates as they finally get a sneak peek into the world of work and industry. Photo by Liza Summer from Pexels.

Published Apr 8, 2021


Durban - An internship gives you an insight into your dream career and industry, and helps grow your practical knowledge while also giving you a competitive edge over your peers. It is an exciting time for young graduates as they finally get a sneak peek into the world of work and industry.

It can be overwhelming at first, as you may feel like a small fish in a big pond with all the synchronised chaos, deadlines and hushed conversations when you walk in – but no stress, we have all been there.

Internships are created for young graduates who have a qualification but no work experience. An intern, or trainee, signs on with a company for a brief period, which is either 6 to 12 months, with a focus of gaining practical work experience in the field. Internships are paid or unpaid and come with many learning benefits.

What does an intern do exactly?

Contrary to Hollywood movies and popular belief, an internship is not about fetching your boss’s custom-made suit or making coffee. A lot has changed and continues to change; this opportunity helps you find your grounding within the industry, builds your skill set and helps you set and nurture your career goals.

The workplace culture will vary according to the industry, but the principle remains the same – assist, learn and grow. You will start with basic tasks leading to bigger tasks over time.

Here are seven tips for when you may find yourself in an internship.

1. Right mindset

It’s imperative to start your internship with the right mindset and attitude. Always be prepared and know what you need to do to succeed, as you never know what to expect. This could elevate you for success or deter you from taking the next step. Be grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow, and see it as a “work in progress level” in your career.

2. A small start

An intern starts from the bottom with minimal tasks and less responsibility. As time goes, and if managers see potential, they trust you with tasks of greater importance and responsibility, often based on your skills, knack and talent. Carrying out your responsibilities successfully will assist you in honing a potent skill set that will shine in your next role.

3. All eyes are on you

Remember, you were selected for a reason and now you are being judged by your conduct, skills and personality to see if the hiring manager was right in selecting you. It’s important to behave professionally at all times, but you can still have fun. Make the most of your opportunity, and always be willing to help or learn.

4. Be willing to learn new skills

Let’s say you have an internship at a media company and your primary skill is writing, you can pick up other essential skills such as photography, project management, design and graphics. Don’t limit yourself when it comes to skills and growth. Be willing to put in the extra hours to learn a new skill or role. Hard work and dedication will set the tone in your attitude towards work. Pick up hard skills and brush up on your soft skills.

5. Don’t be a pushover

You can put in the extra time and effort in learning a new skill, but don’t be a pushover.

Try not to be too soft when it comes to accepting responsibilities when you already have a lot on your plate. Manage what you can and don’t overwork yourself to the point where you hate your job. Effectively manage your daily job commitments and dedicate an hour or two to learning a new skill every week, and be willing to help should you have time.

6. Job shadow and find a mentor

Job shadowing requires you to shadow someone as they perform their daily work tasks or duties. You will observe their activities, learn what the role entails and gain exposure. When you join a company as an intern, you may be assigned a mentor. You may be required to follow them around for the first few months so they can show you the ropes of the job.

7. Network and fill up that contact book

You will meet a lot of people along the way. Be friendly and network as you are out on the job or at company events, but keep it professional. You never know where the connections could lead to – a friend today could be tomorrow’s connection at that prestigious company where you’ve always dreamed of working. Professional friendships can prove valuable in the long run.

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