Advantages and Disadvantages of Internships

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We all know that internships can be an effective way to gain work experience and increase your employment opportunities. But are internships all good? Or are there any disadvantages you should be aware of? To help you figure out if you should be applying for internships or full-time jobs we’ve created the ultimate pros and cons list.


1. You Get Real Work Experience

The biggest benefit of internships is that they offer a safe space for students and graduates to gain work experience. This is important because most employers are reluctant to hire someone who’s never worked before; they think that with no experience, you’ll probably be unreliable and not know what to do or how to work. Of course, this creates a vicious circle with no way out which is why lots of graduates end up in completely unrelated fields.

Internships can be a great solution to this problem as they allow students and graduates to experience a real workplace. Apart from the vocational skills that interns gain, they also get lots of soft skills which are crucial to not only finding a job but succeeding at one as well.

2. You Get a Taste of Your Chosen Field

Choosing your career happens at a very young age, and most of us are not certain what we want to do with the rest of our lives. Many people find themselves going from school to university and then into the workforce before realising that their degree and career are not what they expected them to be.

One of the greatest advantages of internships is that they allow people to experience their industry and chosen profession. This usually has one of two effects - makes people more excited and drives them to work hard and build a successful career, or they realise it’s not the right career for them.

3. You Can Start Networking

If you’re a regular reader of CareerAddict, you’ll have noticed that we keep emphasising the importance of networking. In our experience, it’s one of the most powerful tools in a jobseeker’s arsenal. Nothing is as effective at increasing your employment opportunities as knowing (and having impressed) the right people.

Internships offer you a fantastic opportunity to impress the people that matter. But, to do that, you’ll have to be knowledgeable about your subject, eager to work hard and learn more. The key is to overcome the shyness that is so common amongst interns and learn how to extend your hand and introduce yourself effectively. These networking tips will help.

4. It Helps You Choose a Speciality

An internship can help you identify a particular area in your industry or profession that you’re interested in and help you acquire more knowledge regarding this area.

Of course, there’s a good chance you’ll realise that you have no interest in the particular field that the company you’re interning with operates, but that’s an important lesson to learn. It helps you realise what you need to avoid and also gain skills which can then be transferred to a field you do enjoy.

5. It Helps You Build Your Self-Confidence

If you’re an introvert, this might resonate with you because you probably have a hard time talking about your skills, especially in job interviews. Introverts tend to be more self-conscious which makes them more reluctant to speak about their potential. Having gained some real world experience can help you better understand your value and what you can bring to the table. Sometimes the biggest benefit of an internship is that it helps you realise your abilities.

Even if you’re not an introvert, you’ll still benefit from experiencing a real workplace. It will help you learn more about yourself as a professional, and be more prepared to make decisions, take the initiative and risks; qualities that employers love.

6. It Boosts Your CV

Internships can also benefit your CV as they are a foolproof way to demonstrate that you have work experience, as well as other workplace skills. The skills can be relevant to your chosen profession, which is admittedly crucial in a CV, but they could also be other skills, including communication and people skills that employers value.

To maximise your skill-learning potential, you need to keep an internship diary. An internship diary allows you to document your experiences in the workplace every day. By the end of the internship you’ll have documented every skill you gained, and you’ll also be able to demonstrate how you gained each skill. This can help you include these skills in your CV, and also share your experiences during an interview.

7. It Increases Your Market Value

A common problem many graduates face is that they’re offered a lot less than someone with experience to do the same job. Employers feel justified paying someone a lot less when they don’t have a lot to offer, but if you are interested in getting paid what you’re worth, then doing an internship can help remedy the situation.

And it’s not just your first job, or salary, that will benefit from an internship; your overall market value will increase. Studies have demonstrated that people who have sufficient work experience when they enter the workforce continue to make significantly more even a decade after they first start working.

The Disadvantages

1. You're Treated Like an Assistant

You’ve probably heard that interns often spend their days getting coffee, running errands, making copies and performing other menial tasks. That’s because many companies take advantage of interns and see them more like slaves or assistants than prospective employees. Internships that don’t give you a chance to learn offer little to nothing and you’re definitely better off if you don’t work for companies that treat you that way.

To make sure you don’t get treated like a slave, do your research before you apply for an internship. Read reviews, talk to tutors and career representatives at your university to find out more about them.

2. There's a Low-Earning Potential

Internships often have very low earning potential. Unlike a proper, full-time job, most paid internships don’t offer a competitive wage to try and attract talent. Interning for the wrong company could leave you in a very be bad financial situation.

It’s worth noting, however, that things are slowly changing. The number of companies offering no pay or paying for only out-of-pocket expenses is decreasing, while some of the biggest firms are also beginning to offer more competitive salaries in an attempt to attract talent.

3. It Keeps You from Entering the Workforce

Most internships are not proper jobs, many employers consider them a waste of time and won’t blink before they choose a candidate with real world experience rather than an intern. This may mean that whether you intern or not, you’ll still have quite a hard time at getting your first proper job.

There are quite a few disadvantages to internships, but the advantages outweigh them. Interning will not only enhance your training and allow you to gain skills, but it will also make you a better employee by giving you the self-confidence that is often a prerequisite in the workplace.

Do you think there are any limitations to choosing an internship? Let me know in the comment section below.


This article was originally published in June 2013.