Written by Elbie Liebenberg for W24
Getting an internship in South Africa’s job market is just as tough as landing a permanent job. Should you be lucky enough to get this opportunity, make the best of it. Here’s how:
Principal of Oxbridge Academy Elbie Liebenberg says the first rule of being an intern is to take your professionalism to the next level.This means dress neatly and appropriately for the role, always be punctual, be willing to learn, and complete your tasks to the best of your ability, even if those tasks seem boring.
Apply yourself in every task
Always show that you are interested in learning by asking questions, offering assistance, and giving input where you can. And don’t be afraid to speak up about your ideas.The more you contribute, and the more you complete tasks successfully, the bigger the likelihood that more and more work will be passed your way. By the end of your internship, you will have made yourself a useful part of the team, and employers may decide that you will be a valuable permanent addition.
“Even if that doesn’t not happen, you will be assured of a glowing recommendation, and you’ll have learned important skills that will stand you in good stead when going to interviews and when starting your first real job.” she says.
Find a mentor
An internship allows you to build professional relationships with people in your field, which means that even if you don’t land a position at the company where you are interning, your new contacts are likely to alert you to any suitable opportunities that arise in the industry. It’s also a good idea to find someone who has been in the industry or the company for a few years, who can guide you and advise you about your field and about those practical aspects you wouldn’t have learned about during your studies.
Ask for help
A big mistake some interns make is to think that they are incapable or that they have failed if they are asked to do something and they don’t know how. Nobody expects an intern to be able to do everything that is thrown their way. Everyone understands that an internship is a learning curve, and that it can be quite overwhelming. So if you’re unsure of what it is you are being asked to do, get clarification and assistance straight away.
It is also important to remain open to constructive criticism and not to go on the defence, as this is all part of the experience.
During your internship, keep notes of all the different tasks you have mastered and the contributions you have made to the team. When your time with a company nears its end, ask whether you may schedule a short meeting with the departmental head or HR.
Then use that opportunity to discuss what went well, and to ask for the leader’s insight and advice going forward.
It’s important at this stage to thank them for the opportunity, and to demonstrate that you are a good fit for the company, that you enjoyed working there, and that you would like to be considered for future opportunities should they arise.
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