Guest Article : Internships – What books can’t teach you
If you’re considering an internship might just be what you need but aren’t sure of how to apply or make sure you get the right internship for yourself – Meet Lanna Maarouf-Petersen and Maria Prien Saxbøl. Both these girls took internships during their master’s degree.
Lanna was an intern at the marketing agency, The Red Card Group in Singapore and Maria interned at ISS Facility Services PLC in Denmark. We at CA A-Kasse decided to meet up with them to get a better understanding of their considerations before applying and their experiences during and after the internship, and of course we also wanted to know what advice they have for anyone else considering taking an internship.
Test yourself and the skill set your degree gives you.
Both Lanna and Maria agree that an internship is primarily about testing out one’s skill set and getting a practical understanding of the job-world, in a way that the books in school can’t teach you.
“For me it was mainly about getting some meat on my CV and possibly get myself a part-time job at ISS. I gained both personal and professional experience. I learned to believe in the skill set I had gained from my study program, but at the same time also really had my eyes opened to the fact that there is a huge gap between what is written in theory, and when it is brought into practice. Your study program might teach you what the ideal solution to a problem might be, but in the real world time and money are huge factors and you often find yourself with completely different solutions than what the textbook in class had suggested” says Maria.
Intern in a foreign culture
Lanna also agrees that it is a complete different experience, trying things out in the real world:
“ I gained so much from it. Most of what I can do today, I learnt during one semester in my internship. I think it also makes a difference that I took my internship in Asia. There they have a different work environment, and expectations of you at sky-high from day one. It was intimidating in the start, but it was amazing to be given so much responsibility so early on. After that semester I truly felt as if I was ready to finish my education and step into the job-market.”
Interning in Denmark or abroad?
For many of those who are considering an internship, one of the first questions to be considered is whether you’re going to take your internship in Denmark or abroad. Here you really have to look inside yourself, and figure out what option would make you the most motivated, and would give you the best possible experiences to add to your CV. You do also have to make practical considerations as well.
For Maria, an internship abroad was not an option. She had just bought an apartment in Copenhagen, which meant that she then had certain obligations. “In hindsight it would have been incredibly interesting and a life-time experience, so I do regret it a little now”.
Lanna however, knew right from the start that she wanted to intern abroad. She wanted to work in a foreign culture and gain international experience, by challenging and pressing her limits. Furthermore, she has always dreamed of getting out and travelling, and an internship abroad gave her just that option to do so.
Which organisation should you apply to?
Figure out what you want to gain from your internship place. Is it more important for you to get into a well-known company that will look good on your CV, or would you rather gain experience working with specialized projects?
For Lanna, the importance was the fact that she had to go to a place where demands were made and where she was seen as an equal to the other employees.
“I felt that the task descriptions sounded incredibly interesting and different from all the other tasks that other internship places had offered me. I was very confused because I was also in contact with other companies who worked in certain areas that I found more interesting than the ones Red Card worked in. But the actual tasks that Red Card worked with were more interesting, and I could feel from the start that I would be given the responsibility that I wanted, here”.
In Maria’s case, it was also all about exciting and challenging tasks at work – “ISS is a big and well-known company, which I thought could be a good candidate to get an insight into”.
What does an intern do?
There isn’t a single two internships that are the same, and the phrase “interns are for getting the coffee, can sometimes scare people away. However, there is actually really exciting projects, other than just getting the coffee.
At ISS, Maria was given lots of responsibility and projects to take on:
“I designed a new website, where I was in charge of the design part of it. It was really exciting. I also worked with their intranet, and more administratively with writing articles and newsletters.
In Singapore, one of Lanna’s most exciting projects was to be part of a team running a campaign on pandas that are on the verge of extinction – “I was allowed to be on board from creating marketing content to planning a press conference. From negotiating contracts and booking international artists to putting on a huge concert for 5000 guests. It was incredibly difficult as I worked for many hours on end and got very little sleep, but on the other hand, it gave me the chance to really properly get into all the tasks.
Apply in good time
It’s a good idea to apply for an internship well in advance. That way you get to the front of the line, and might even be able to mold yourself into an internship position, before the company even puts out an add for it!
Lanna took her internship during the fall semester, but she started searching and applying already in January.
“I started off by just searching for marketing agencies on Google, and then I wrote unsolicited applications to all the ones I thought were interesting. Most of them were quick to reply, and I ended up being offered several internships. It was crazy! But I’m pretty sure it’s because I wrote to them so much ahead of time. I ended up having to write “for-and- against” points for them to decide, and that’s how Red Card Group won. They also offered a paid internship, which was a bonus.
Maria got into contact with ISS through her network, and then she sent in her CV to their communications department. She was then called in for a job interview, and was able to negotiate her way to getting a paid internship.
What advice would you give to others considering taking an internship?
Both Lanna and Maria agree that they have no regrets with deciding to take an internship – it’s all about just doing it and believing in yourself. “Create ideas for future work tasks and make sure the work you do is extraordinary, so that you guarantee your place of internship wants you to stay longer than just your internship period,” says Maria, “You should also remember that while your theoretical knowledge is important, you do still have to use your common sense.”
Lanna adds and reiterates the importance of starting early. “I am so glad I started early. It granted me the luxury of choosing between several internship options to find the perfect place for me, which also paid.”
It’s not just about going on an internship, but also getting out to a place where your boundaries are challenged, and you learn things that you can take with you onwards after. Don’t choose the first and the best – take your time and pick the place you will gain the most from.
This article was originally written in Danish, by Charlotte Ødum Buur, marketing coordinator, CA. It was translated by CBSLife writer, Mihika Deb. To read the original piece and find out more – click here .