Bridging the Gap: How Internships Foster Crucial Workplace Skills
College life often creates a comforting bubble, where you’re shielded from the realities of the “real world.” You’re surrounded by peers in an environment tailored to the young, offering everything from food and films to clothing and coffee shops. Yet, stepping into the working world can be a profound shift for a 21-year-old graduate who suddenly finds themselves in an entirely different daily routine.
Internships serve as invaluable bridges between the academic sphere and the workplace. Renowned entrepreneurs like Kapish Haldia extol the virtues of internships. Growing up assisting in his parents’ jewelry business, Haldia brought his financial acumen and business savvy to NYU’s Stern School of Business, where he interned at non-profit DoSomething.org, the largest tech company dedicated to young people and social change. He also interned at Citigroup, which eventually hired him full-time upon his graduation.
So, how exactly do internships help students prepare for the workplace? Here are eight pivotal ways:
1. Real-World Experience: While it may seem obvious, experiencing the daily grind of the working world is one of the most significant benefits of an internship. Hands-on experience, even if it’s not directly related to a student’s major, complements their academic knowledge.
2. Specialized Training: This is particularly evident in fields like medicine, where medical graduates assist physicians in a hospital setting to learn how to be a doctor. Classroom education is essential, but it cannot replace direct, supervised patient experience.
3. Mentorship and Learning from Mistakes: Internships offer students the opportunity to make mistakes without the fear of dismissal or loss of income. With a great mentor, students can learn in a supportive environment, gaining confidence in their ability to handle challenges independently in the future.
4. Soft Skills Development: While many individuals excel in their chosen fields, they may lack vital communication and collaboration skills, which are indispensable in the workplace. These skills have become increasingly important in the age of 24/7 connectivity. The digital interface has often replaced face-to-face interactions, particularly for many Millennial and Gen Z employees. An internship can help those who are more comfortable texting than talking develop stronger interpersonal skills.
5. Test Before You Commit: Many students enter college with uncertain career paths or a variety of fields that intrigue them. Partaking in multiple internships in different industries can be an excellent way to explore whether a particular field feels like a good fit before making a lifelong career commitment.
6. Contributions Beyond the Role: Internships provide an opportunity to explore areas outside the designated internship position. This exploration might lead to a deeper sense of purpose by contributing to the organization in ways that nourish and inspire. In this process, you may even discover your true passion.
7. Work/Life Balance: Beginning your career may tempt you to prove yourself by working long hours. Conversely, some are content to clock in, perform their duties, and collect a paycheck. Internships introduce you to working during regular business hours (unless you’re a medical intern) while managing your free time effectively. This fosters excellent time management skills, helping you establish healthy work-life boundaries when you commence your career.
8. Identifying Potential Hires: For businesses, internships offer the opportunity to assess potential hires before extending a full-time job offer. Kapish Haldia’s story, where a company hired him after his internship because he proved to be a valuable addition to the team, serves as a prime example.
In conclusion, internships serve as vital stepping stones for students transitioning from academia to the workforce. They offer hands-on experience, a chance to develop specialized skills, and a platform for learning from mentors and one’s own mistakes. Internships also facilitate the growth of essential soft skills and provide opportunities to explore multiple career paths. They help students understand the concept of work-life balance and give businesses the chance to assess potential hires before making long-term commitments.