Apr 3, 2019

Getting the best out of your internship.

In these times of diminishing employment opportunities, every chance one gets to ‘pitch’ to an employer should be embraced with utmost care. Internships are literally one of such rare opportunities one gets to ‘pitch’ to an employer and prove oneself. It is unfortunate, though, that most people who find themselves with an internship opportunity fail to recognize the great chance they have to shape their future. How should one go about getting the best of an internship? Here are a few ideas I suggest you try out.

  • Recognize that it is a favour

We are a greatly entitled generation. We feel that our parents owe us school fees, that our country owes us employment opportunities. Therefore, we view everything, not as a favor, but as an entitlement. The danger with this is in the manner we handle such opportunities. With this kind of attitude, we do not aim to do our best, but only to get what is rightfully ours. We should not approach internships with this kind of attitude. We should first recognize that by getting the opportunity, we are only riding on the goodwill of the employer or the company. If we are not being paid, we should not view this as exploitation, but as a stepping stone to being paid. We should aim to learn so much from it, that even without the pay our time there is not wasted.

  • It is like a race

I know of many companies who only absorb interns and never employ ‘from scratch.’ The idea is to give a four-month internship and, within this time, study the person while considering them for employment. The interns should, therefore, realize that this is like a race, where the best will be awarded – either directly or indirectly. With this recognition, you should try at any given opportunity to do your best in the assignments given and responsibilities assigned. If you are not the type to smile always, this is your chance to learn something new. If you are not the type to go an extra mile, you have no choice here. Internship, especially if you are aiming to go the employment way, is literally a race. You must do all you can to get a medal. Remember that you are only in this place for a specific period to make the best of it even if it means getting out of your comfort zone. Take part in all their activities. Remember your tag as an ‘intern’ could save you the money you may have had to pay in order to get access to some of the activities run by the company.

  • Not the company, but your boss.

You might be lucky to get an opportunity in a ‘big company’ with a good name. It is important to learn that even though this may be the case, your direct boss has a lot to do with your growth. It narrows down to how you relate with them and how you make their work easy. When it comes to recommendation or assessment, it is your boss (and not the company), that recommends you. Your boss, therefore, is your gateway to this company or the specific industry. Be very close to them (reasonably so), and try to make their work easy. Do all that they tell you with enthusiasm and share your progress with them. You may ask them to mentor you in a specific area. Try to find out what they love and, on their special days like birthday etc., do something reasonably unique for them. Even in all these, be careful not to send wrong signals or perceived wrong signals. I am certain your conscience will guide you on what is reasonable in dealing with them. Remember that before they are your boss, they are human beings and they are responsive to the things that make us human. They may also have some weaknesses. The idea is not to judge them but to always remember why you are in the company. Maintain your professional distance but do not forget that they are your gateway to the company or the industry.

  • One blue among the red

Do whatever you can to stand out. Before you start your internship, make it a deliberate effort to do research about the company. Know the culture; what is cherished and what is not allowed in the context of the company. Then within the boundaries of what is valued in the company, aim to stand out. Look for something which is not listed in your ‘Job Descriptions’ (JD) but which will make you get noticed. It does not have to be huge. It could be as simple as standing during introductions while your colleagues chose to remain seated. Who knows, maybe just through this simple act, you may find yourself being referred to as ‘the one who stood up’. Give your colleagues and everyone you work with a reason to remember you. In some cases, you will not be given things like business cards. I ask you to take it upon yourself and get a unique and professional business card. You may choose to use personal details i.e. June Majiwa, Bachelor of Arts in Communication, Strathmore University… (Include personal contact details). Wherever you go, have your business card with you and ensure you get as many connections as possible. Some connections you may make now may not make sense; have them anyway. You may need them later.

  • Volunteer Culture.

Companies and many organizations are in the business of solving problems or meeting demands. Occasionally, there may be a request outside your JD or official working hours. Perhaps the company is scheduled to have their award ceremonies at night and an email has been sent asking volunteers to sit at the registration desk. Be the first to take that opportunity, even if it will inconvenience you. Have a volunteer culture. Be willing to serve even if you do not earn anything extra from it. Someone will remember you for this. Service will make you an insider sooner than you think. Let it be your key to people’s hearts. Even those with the hardest of hearts appreciate an act of genuine service. Look at their social media pages and if you notice that the company is struggling to create content, volunteer to manage it for them (of course with guidance from the relevant department). Identify an area within the company which can give you the opportunity to volunteer.

  • Know them well.

Read the newspaper articles about your company and all the news sources regarding your industry. You may develop an idea which might be helpful to your company. This is only possible if you understand the industry well. Talk to former employees and colleagues if you must. Attend all the briefing meetings (if you must), but remember to know your employer to the last drop. Speak with your mentor about the opportunity to serve in this company and ask how you can get the best of it. Ask the same question to your parents or guardians or any other person around you who can give you practical ideas to optimize the time you have to work with the company.

You have a great chance to make your first move as a professional. Even if you are not being paid, make the best of this opportunity. Do not work grudgingly because you are not being paid. Negotiate for what is reasonable, with the reality of the market at the back of your mind; make the best of this chance. Let this opportunity give you a mirror to look at who you are in light of a professional. Remember, the boy/girl you are is the man/woman you become.

All the best as you make the best use of this chance.


Gabriel Dinda is the Founder of Writers Guild Kenya and a Masters of Applied Philosophy and Ethics student at Strathmore University. Share your thoughts with him at:

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