Reckon Internships Are Only For The Young And Hip?

As Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson cavort across cinema screens with generation-gap buffoonery featuring fist bumps and technological mishaps in The Internship, we got thinking about how the conventional internship – traditionally a preserve of students and recent graduates – is no more…

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THERE’S MORE THAN ONE WAY TO SKIN AN INTERN

Based on the general vibe in London’s Tech City, you could be forgiven for assuming that the entry criteria for an internship with a startup involve a deep-V-neck, a short-back-‘n’-sides and the kind of youthful visage which drags forth a suspicious glare from the chap at the off licence. Whilst the East End’s pavements are indeed overrun by swathes of this ilk, it’s easy to forget that an internship can also be the catalyst for a career-change. It’s a golden opportunity to dip one’s proverbial toe in an entirely new professional environment and veer towards a totally different job role; without the caveat of previous relevant experience required.

As it happens, a sizeable chunk of the now-permanent Enternships team found themselves getting stuck into an internship here after a foray (ranging from a year to a decade) down the corporate career path. Whether you decided the corporate life isn’t for you or just want to try your hand at something new, having worked in a different job function or a different industry shouldn’t deter you from having a crack at an internship. The soft skills you’ll have learned over that time – teamwork, organisation, prioritisation, communication – will be valuable to your new employer, however hefty the change in direction from your previous raison d’être.

Another thing worth bearing in mind is that a university degree is by no means a necessity when it comes to an internship. A bit of effort to demonstrate that you have the drive, the dedication and the understanding – in short, that you “get it” – will be enough to convince your target company that there are more valuable assets in a potential employee than a scrap of paper dolled up with some academic typeface and a fancy stamp.

One such story belongs to Sait Cham, a recent addition to a Wayra UK startup Sponsorcraft, who regaled us with the journey that led him to becoming their intern. Following the completion of his NVQ, Sait entered the corporate realm as a receptionist at the tender age of 17 and, being an industrious chap, swiftly worked his way up the ranks until he became a Project Manager. He sucked every drop out of the opportunities presented by his employer over the course of the following four years and ultimately decided that he was ready for pastures new. Enter Sponsorcraft: Sait approached them with a thorough understanding of and passion for their mission and a wealth of suggestions about what he could do for them, essentially creating his own job role.

CEO of Sponsorcraft, Jonathan May, sums it up thusly:

The most important things we look for when assessing interns are personability and intention. We tend to throw away the CV, because the whole point of an internship is to develop skills. We want to see a clear understanding of what we do, and a clear ambition to learn and achieve – and this can only be done with a short, strong cover letter and a meeting.”

Jonathan also emphasised that another sticking point in a startup company is to avoid any personal or professional friction; something that a first from Oxbridge is no guarantee of. If someone is mind-bogglingly intellectual but doesn’t share your collective sense of humour, how much will you enjoy being in their company for the majority of your waking hours? We know we keep harping on about the interminable value of a cultural fit between company and intern – but Hot Diggity, you’ve just got to get it right.

And so we’d like to leave Vince Vaughn to continue his on-screen shenanigans of debatable hilarity but thank him heartily for bringing to light the fact that an internship could benefit anyone on their quest for a fulfilling career, regardless of circumstances. Good work lad.

By Corissa Nunn

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