How an internship could lead to more

28% of Belgian interns get offered an employment contract at the end of their internship (Eurobarometer, 2013). Our very own employees, Sofie and Jeff, are the real-life examples of how an internship could lead to your first job. They started their internships coming from different educational backgrounds, with their own motives to get involved in the daily business operations at myShortlist. Along the way, they realized their internships were a perfect match with their desired job aspirations. What are the benefits of an internship? Why should you do an internship? And why is it so important to find the right one? Read it in this article and find out how to jumpstart your career. 

In the EU, it is estimated that at least 4 to 6 million young people engage in an internship during the timespan of one year (European Union, 2017). Today, the use of internships is already well established in the business world, but what is it exactly, and how does it differ from a student job? As we talk about internships multiple types could cross your mind, such as an unpaid voluntary internship, a mandatory degree-related apprenticeship, or a long-term paid traineeship. Although each type has a different intention and approach, they have one important thing in common: they are meant to learn. In an internship, the student is not expected to be able to master all the tasks yet but is meant to develop his skills and gain new relevant experiences. This in contrast to a student job which is often paid, for a shorter time period, and in which you are hired for a specific task that matches your current skill set. Furthermore, a student job is often not or less relevant to your studies. Following this line of thought, Sofie and Jeff searched for an internship in which they could learn new study-related practical skills. 

Why is it so important to find the right internship?

The likelihood of being invited to a job interview is 13% higher for graduates who have previously completed an internship (UGent & KU Leuven, 2019). This advantage is due to the fact that companies positively value the efforts that are invested in an internship. It indicates that the student has had its first encounter with a professional work environment, is willing to learn and work, and most likely has gained relevant skill sets. Even when your internship might not be the perfect match with your dream job, you’ll always have learned some general skills. When we asked Sofie and Jeff to explain which general skills they have learned during their internship, they answered the following: learning how to communicate with other professionals, how to act in a business environment, how to handle large amounts of information, and negotiation.

Why is it not the best idea to just go for the first internship you can find, if all internships could boost your CV? Because an internship is an opportunity to get to know yourself. To learn which type of job you like, which career path you might aspire, or who you are in a professional setting. If you apply for an internship that doesn’t comply with your future expectations, your opportunity to find out who you are diminishes. So it is important to think about what you would like in a job and even more in which company culture you want to work. The perfect internship will give you an idea of how your perfect company culture and function feels like. It can take away any doubts about your first job goals. However, don’t be disappointed when your internship turns out not to be the ideal fit after all. At least, now you have learned what you do not want regarding job content or company culture. It will make your future job searches easier, as you can exclude a certain type of function or organization. 

Sofie Priem. Intern (2015). Permanent job (2016).

If, however, you feel like having found the perfect fit, the possibility always exists that you get offered a labor contract. Therefore, if you don’t put any effort into finding the right internship, you might pass the chance on efficiently obtaining your first job. At myShortlist, we currently have two dedicated coworkers who were offered their first job after finishing their internships. During their traineeship, it became clear to us that their skill sets and enthusiastic attitude matched with our company culture, which led to the proposal of employment. Also, Sofie and Jeff quickly felt that they had made the right internship choice so when they got the offer the decision to say yes was easy to make. By getting to know the company better from an inside perspective, they were more aware of what they wanted for themselves in their future careers. They fell in love with the company culture as well as the job itself and did not feel the need to investigate the job market anymore, as they had found what they were looking for. Especially the company culture match was the number one priority for Sofie. To quote her on this matter: “It is better to match 80% with the job and 100% with the company culture, instead of 100% job match and 80% culture. Because in the right company you can grow towards your ideal job as this environment will motivate you. On the other hand, your dream job in the wrong company culture will not be your dream job for a long time.” To date, both Sofie and Jeff are still working at myShortlist with pleasure and great commitment. 

Even if the company you worked at as an intern doesn’t have any vacancies, it was still worth it: you have built connections with your colleagues and gained a viable network that might help you to get a job. Obviously, you will interact with other employees in nearly all internships. However, in the right internship with a good cultural fit, it will be easier to speak and connect with these people. In addition, likeminded colleagues might be able to better understand you and your needs, which makes it easier to associate you with a suitable job opportunity. 

How to find the right internship/ what is important to think about? 

Now, we have convinced you to go out there and find the right internship for you. But how do you find it? The first step is to stand still and reflect on who you are, what you want, what you want to get out of it, and which company culture would fit with your personality. Not sure what you want or which company culture would probably suit you best? myShortlist can help you discover yourself and your career aspirations. Afterwards, you can make a specific list of what you want the internship to entail and which kind of company it needs to be. You could write it down or tuck it away somewhere in the back of your mind, just be sure that you’ll think about the list when reviewing possible internship opportunities. Don’t go for the first the best, but be patient and search for the one that ticks all the boxes (or at least most of them). Also, dare to ask questions you may have about the internship (tasks) so you will not encounter big unpleasant surprises when you start working. 

Jeff Caers. Intern (2018). Permanent job (2019).

Even if you know what you are looking for, it is not always easy to find it. To make your dreadful search a little bit easier, our ex-interns provided us with a few tips that could help. Firstly, ask your friends and family if they might know some interesting companies that would fit you. It might seem too easy, but both Sofie and Jeff got to know myShortlist by a recommendation of a friend. Secondly, talk to your network both online as offline. Think about the professionals you have encountered or make use of your LinkedIn account. Lastly, did you find the perfect company but they aren’t looking for anyone? Send them a spontaneous application and maybe they could use an extra helping hand. Not less than 33% of European students have found their internship due to this approach (European Youth Forum, 2011).   

It is undeniable that internships – tout court - have a positive effect on your prospective job opportunities. However, finding the right internship will increase your chances to quickly launch your career. Thus, think twice before choosing the easiest obtainable internship. It is better to wait, and thoroughly research your options before making your final decision. Sofie and Jeff didn’t regret their internship choice as it became their launching pad to their desired careers.