Interning – The Good, The Bad and The Importance
I’m sure many of you have heard an older and wiser person in your life tell you ‘you should intern! I know it’s hard, but it’s totally worth it!’ I’m also certain many of you have turned up your nose at the (mostly) unpaid experience, believing ‘I can’t afford to live for free! Time is money!’ But trust me; there is more to interning than free slave labour and endless coffee runs, despite what the movies tell you.
I’m a huge believer in the idea that your degree is only what you make of it. In my case, studying a Bachelor of PR and knowing early on that opportunities can be limited, I knew straight away that I would be working hard to get anywhere and everywhere. It’s the type of thinking that got me involved in some amazing projects from my first year – such as launching a book and becoming a journalist for a magazine that reviews bands (which has got me some pretty sweet free tickets to shows), manning the media centre and playing with horses for the Adelaide International Three Day Event – which eventually led me on the path to interning.
Many degrees demand some sort of work or intern experience as part of the package of skills they teach you. Mine is no different. However, the scope can vary between courses; for instance, my best friend will spend her time in clinics and hospitals on her way to enlightenment as a physiotherapist, while I can spend my time with absolutely anyone who uses a communications team to engage with employees or the outside world. Obviously I have a lot more scope… But that makes it even more difficult to choose sometimes.
The first excellent point I would like to make is, you get to try before you buy into a career or industry. Since I already work for the state government, and had a taste of corporate communications through other means, I knew from the get-go that I wanted to learn a little bit more about non-profit organisations (like charities or groups working to assist a particular group of people or cause) particularly in Indigenous affairs – which is an area I have been passionate about since my mother studied archaeology. This led me to The Aurora Internship Program, which is who I interned through.
The Program is dedicated to connecting students and graduates with internship opportunities in a wide range of Indigenous focused organisations, particularly relating to native title, advocacy and social justice. It’s all about getting students and graduates who want and need experience, matched with organisations that need their particular skill set (or just help in general), in areas such as law, anthropology and some other social sciences (which was communications in my case). It’s a fantastic experience; from the application to the interview, it’s at the same level as applying for a job, and so the experience starts before you even begin.
I got to hang around with the South Australian Native Title Service’s (SANTS) communication team, who are a fantastic pair of people. SANTS help to facilitate the discussion and management of native title between the communities and the government, as well as a whole range of other legal and service functions. While I was there I got to attend NAIDOC Week’s award ceremony, march in the NAIDOC Week march, write for their newspaper Aboriginal Way as well as sit in on interviews with an incredible elder from the Riverland and learn how their team functions with everyone else.
Which leads me to the next great thing – you get to meet people who are already where you’d like to be. After I landed the internship (which wasn’t a complete walk in the park… I dislike job interviews almost as much as I dislike walking on hot coals), I was working with people who already had my dream career and had to figure out how to get there too. I got to see the good (the work was so varied), the bad (communication between so many groups of people can be frustrating) and the ugly (I hope I never have to transcribe another interview… a girl can dream, right?). It was fantastic to get a realistic and in-depth look at the roll without my rose-tinted glasses on. I learned so much by watching, let alone completing work and interacting with the team.
And of course, that leads to my next point – you might find your plan for your future changes or evolves. I never had a real concrete plan for my future, but this certainly helped me decide what I wanted to get out of my degree. I now know for sure that I absolutely want to be working for a non-profit in some capacity when I finish up my undergraduate study later this year. The work is challenging, but it is working towards a greater cause.
Don’t get me wrong, being unpaid is difficult, but… If you’re really impressive, you might get asked back… and if you’re really lucky, you might land yourself a job! This didn’t happen to me, but my supervisor was one of the lucky ones. She found herself employed after interning with Aurora herself, proving that well known saying ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’. I think you’ll find job offers post-internship are a real thing, which should only emphasise how important they can be for your future career.
I believe everyone should give an internship a go, get a hands-on education about working in their chosen field and workplace and try something new. You’ll meet people who can mentor and support you into transitioning to the next stage of your post-graduate career, maybe even finding yourself with a desire to work in a completely new field – but that’s okay too.
And guess what? I didn’t get coffee for anyone. Not even once.
Applications for summer 2016/17 internships through the Aurora Internship Program are open now through August 26 2016. For more information, please visit: http://auroraproject.com.au/internship-program