Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Observer - Internships

Choosing a career path and which organisation you would like to pursue it in are both extremely tough and at times highly stressful decisions to make.
One way in which students can get a head start on the road to discovering what career is right for them is to sacrifice the sun holiday and spend the summer working with a company you would like to pursue a career with on an internship.
Internships are a period of time, typically 12 weeks, spent working at an entry level with a company, and are becoming an ever more popular way for employers and students to become acquainted in the careers process. The increase in internships being offered and taken is the realisation by both side of the benefits derived from the process.

More and more companies are choosing to offer summer internship programs, a fact displayed by the GradIreland handbook listing no less than 50 employers who have expressed intentions to take on interns this summer. It is also worth taking into account that although internship places may not be officially advertised by an organisation it does not mean that the company in question would not be open to the idea of running one, Joan Gallagher, Employer Liaison for the UCD Careers Office advise that “even though a company may not necessarily have a formal internship program in place I would not be deterred as a student from applying”

At the most basic of levels internships can be beneficial on a purely financial level, providing the student with a financial cushion for the academic year ahead. College life is in no way a cheap affair with expenses ranging from rent and academic materials to social duties, and working in a full time internship which can last up to three months, can help put a few coins in the piggy bank and solve many of your financial problems for the year ahead.

One of the major benefits that students experience while on an internship with an organisation is the unique opportunity to observe the theoretical content that was purely academic in college, being put into practice in the real world, Casey advises that a spell spent with a company can give “enormous insight into how you can apply the knowledge that you learn in college to the vocational setting of the workplace.”
Being exposed to the reality of day to day life within an organisation can also allow you to see if the reality of the job is how you imagined it would be, Casey believes that “An internship will allow a student to evaluate a company from the inside as an employee, to better asses whether he/she would like to pursue a job in this organisation or sector of employment.”
One student who undertook an internship this summer believed “It definitely gave me a good insight into what the job entails, and it was good to be paid well while learning a lot” while another student described his 12 week placement as “one of the most important things I will have done in college” adding “the reality of the job was so far off what I had imagined it was scary, definitely a real eye opener.”

Many students who complete internships with a company find themselves with a job offer at the end of their placement, having a job secured for the following year allows students to avoid the lengthy recruitment process and to direct all their energy towards academic endeavours, a final year commerce student noted that “Application forms for accountancy firms take up to 5 hours to complete. I was guaranteed a job and that meant I did not have to spend all that time as well as going through several interviews for numerous firms.”
Not all students that undertake an internship will have a formal job offer but will have at the very least a foot placed firmly in the door, and will have contacts inside the company who may be able to fast track the individual though the process. Casey advises that being able to refer to an internship will “make your CV stand out from the crowd”, adding “the hands on experience will allow you to build marketable skills which will make you attractive to potential employers down the road.

Students who are considering applying for an internship or would simply like more information on the matter are advised to attend the “Internship and vacation work” careers seminar organised by the UCD Careers office, taking place on 14th November at 5pm in Theatre R of the Newman building. The UCD careers office website,, is another valuable source of information and is updated with internship offers and news on a regular basis.

On a more personal note, I did an internship this summer with Accenture consulting and all the benefits mentioned above where definitely true, it has helped me make some important decisions about which direction to take after college, and exposure to working life has made me appreciate my time at UCD even more.

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