Why is an internship the best first career step for graduates?

24 February, 2018 Caleb Suji

Fashion icon Ralph Lauren started selling ties on the side when he was interning as a clerk in a men’s clothing store. Mary Barra had been with the company for 30 years having started out as an intern in her teenage years when she became the first ever woman to be appointed CEO of US car maker, General Motors. Closer home, James Mworia started out as an intern in the very same company for which he is CEO today. The decision of starting out one’s career as an intern is one that many new graduates take, not deliberately, but out of necessity or due to lack of options. Although it is not the start most hope for, internships offer a critical experience that regular jobs do not and many firms actually have elaborate programs meant to nurture talent and mentor young graduates into finding fulfilling careers. In this article, we look at the benefits of starting one’s career as an intern against the perception of it being less than an ideal start.

Enhance Your CV through relevant experience

The challenge today is not that there are too many graduates chasing after a few jobs but rather, of the thousands of graduates that are churned out into the job market every year, very few have the skills and experience required by the job market. The advent of the digital age has not made things easier either as most traditional technical jobs are being automated as demand for soft skills rises. It is for this reason that graduate trainee programs and internships have been adopted by many companies in Kenya as a way to bridge the skills gap. Beneficiaries of such programs, even if not absorbed by the companies, often have a better ground for bargaining in the job market than those with zero experience.

Learning on the job

As an intern, you are probably acquiring first-hand exposure to real life situations that may or may not be related to the job but require intuition and discretion. Problem-solving and quick judgment sooner or later become a necessity, especially for the intensive programs. Unlike the theoretical knowledge and routine learning experienced in college, an internship will ensure every day is a new experience, interacting with new people and handling different challenges. It takes away the predictability of a boring class schedule and introduces the intern to a dynamic environment that offers a steep learning curve for those with little experience of the professional world.

Self-Discovery

Most permanent job positions do not come with the flexibility offered by an internship. With a predetermined job description, it is unlikely that a full-fledged employee will have time to try out new things. An internship, however, gives you the opportunity to explore your options and discover the things you are good at and those you are not. With more room for error and proper mentorship, internships offer a well-charted path to discovery of one’s passion. It is one sure way to avoid ending up in a dead end job that turns you into a robot and for which you have no passion.

Dealing with Superiors

As an intern, you are probably at the lowest level of the professional food chain. This is not necessarily a bad thing. On the contrary, it gives you an opportunity to get mentorship, while also learning how to communicate to your superiors. It gives a good environment to learn professional courtesy and build confidence. For internships that offer jobs at the end, it instills in you the respect for your work as well as others with the understanding that every position is earned on merit. It also removes the misplaced sense of entitlement that most new employees come with from working in previous organizations.

Networking Opportunity

Being an intern gives you the opportunity to develop deeper professional connections through extended interactions with peers and co-workers over the internship period. These connections often turn out to be good references when seeking to advance in your career. It also gives you a chance to build a reputation and showcase your skills in ways that may be beneficial to your growth prospects in the company.

Internship at Cytonn

In an effort to identify and nurture young talented professionals, Cytonn runs a 12-week internship program known as the Cytonn Young Leadership Program under its Cytonn Foundation Pillar which is itself the training and mentorship facet of the organization. Young graduates, under the CYLP program, get a first-hand experience of the professional world through constant training, assignments, and evaluations as well as mentorship in leadership.

As in many firms, the program acts as the company’s primary recruitment tool with over 50% of its staff having graduated from it. It is an essential way of instilling the company’s culture and aligning new employees to its vision. The benefits of starting out your career as an intern are endless. It is an arrangement that has mutual benefits to both the intern and the hiring company as the former gets to gain a rich experience of professional skills while the latter gets to retain the best talent adept to the organization’s ways of doing things.

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