Many of us have done an internship either in their graduation or post-graduation as a necessary part of their curriculum. Some of us feel that internship is a waste of time which could have been better utilised by spending time with family/friends, vacationing etc. For some, it is just a source of pocket money to buy a fancy gadget or spend on their girl friends. But, the real question is, are internships required as a part of a professional course and if yes, what purpose do they solve?
First of all, what is an internship and for how long is it? An internship is a short term on the job experience in which the intern gets to apply the theoretical knowledge gained in the course to solve practical problems. The concept of Internships started in Western countries where the concept of “Earn while you Learn” system is prevalent. The duration of internship may vary depending upon the course and the requirements of the job. Typically, it is between 4 weeks to 24 weeks. A MBA internship is usually of 8 weeks while engineering internship last for around 20-24 weeks. An intern is also not given too much responsibility during his period of stay. He is just expected to observe everything and absorb as much knowledge as he can. An intern usually gets a stipend amount which can be used to cover for his/her expenses during that period of internship.
Now, we focus our attention back to the main question- Are Internships useful?
The answer is – Yes!
Internships are useful not only from the intern’s perspective but also from the company’s perspective. As a young professional, a person is not fully aware of the industry in which he/she is going to enter and whether that field suits his interest. For example, in my case, I am an Electronics Engineer who has worked in a reputed IT company for 18 months before pursuing MBA in Operations. Now, this may seem like a weird combination but a person’s interests do change over time and internships provide a glimpse of the path ahead. I had a passion for automobiles right from my Engineering days and coincidentally, I got a summer internship offer from an Automobile Company. The transition from IT to an Automobile Company was difficult for me. The working environments, the culture of the two organizations are poles apart. For example, in an IT organization, more emphasis is given to the employee and he enjoys more freedom to do his/her work. While in an Automobile company, more emphasis is given to machines, the manner of working and individual freedom is limited.
The main advantage of an internship is that a person learns whether he is fit for that industry or not. This is a very important aspect because that is the career path that the person is going to lead for the next 15-20 years of his life. It is therefore crucial that he makes an informed decision by weighing all the pros and cons. This knowledge will be useful when he decides to sign up for companies which come for final placements. If a person gets into an industry which doesn’t suit him, there is a high chance of him underperforming in his job and also getting frustrated which ultimately results in him changing his job or worst case, profession itself!
Also, it is a win-win situation for companies. Companies can get their work done by assigning projects to interns and they can save money as the stipend amount is far less than the remuneration paid to a full time employee. Companies also judge the interns as to whether they are fir for the role and the company culture. Not everyone can fit into every company. A person’s interest and style must match with that of the company’s culture. If an intern performs exceptionally well during the internship and if the company finds him suitable for the role, they might even offer him a final job offer. Thus, companies can scout for potential employees in a pool of interns.
Internships are also a great time for networking. You get to meet students from other colleges and can exchange information and it is also the right time for interns to build up a network with industry professionals. After all , in this digital age , having a good network is very essential for career growth.
Thus, I feel that internships are a great concept and should be made compulsory for all professional courses. Now, after having experience in 2 diverse industries, I have definitely made my mind on where I would want to work!!
There are no bad ideas. Just the lack of courage to follow them.