Dear Seasoned Workforce,
I am a follower of your Facebook page and a frequent reader of the articles that you share. I am in the second year of my Bachelor of Business and IT degree. In a few months, I will be breaking for my long holiday and I have read a lot about the importance of volunteering and internships to add work experience to my CV. I set out to find an internship about 6 weeks ago in several IT companies and sent out a few online applications. Unfortunately for me, this has not been as successful as I expected. I have gotten two rejection emails and many larger companies have informed me that I need to be a graduate to secure an intern position. Could you advise me on what I can do about this? It is turning out to be more difficult than I expected.
Thank you for taking a great personal initiative to enrich your CV with work experience. This will prove immensely valuable in later stages of your studies. I commend you for your efforts so far and I am confident that you are on the right path.
The search for an internship position can be a stressful one. Trust me, there is no single formula for avoiding the hurdles and the rejection emails. I would advise that you begin to take each experience as a chance to learn and improve your craft- including interview performance and etiquette. The law of probability also states that the more times you attempt, the more likely you are to get a positive response. So our rule #1 here is; Do not stop until you get what you are looking for- in this case, a positive response.
Now that we have defined our target clearly, we can set out to do the groundwork. There are certain steps which you can use to ease the process.
From our previous posts, you will notice that a lot has been said about networking. I want you to remember that companies do not give jobs or internships, people do. How well you navigate and seize these human interactions will greatly determine the success of your internship hunt. Look for IT related events, conferences and seminars. Prepare adequately and show up. Listen to what is going on in the industry, and link these practical needs to the skills that you have gained so far. Finally, speak to people! Ask questions.
2. Being well informed
As you ease into regular networking, it will be vital for you to do some research about the ongoing and future developments in your field and come up with some intelligent questions and perspectives. You would be surprised how much intelligence is lying around in Business Daily, Forbes, All Africa, IT News Africa and so many others.
In the words of Caroline Mutoko: In a world of Google, ignorance is by choice. We can no longer afford the luxury of not knowing when it is easier than ever to access information. This information is not only intended for CEO’s and decision makers. So do not be afraid of doing the real dirty (tedious) work. Remember, there is no short-cut to being well informed.
4. Approach your Professor
This is an avenue that we often overlook but can be very helpful. Academic institutions are great networking points and are often well connected to the industry. Create a good rapport with your professor. They can turn out to be very useful in either introducing or recommending you to many organizations and companies.
3. Working with start-ups
Finally, I will let you in on a little secret that changed my entire professional journey. The secret is found in start-ups! Kenya has had quite a buzz in it’s start-up environment over the past few years. Several innovative enterprises have been established both having being founded locally and others having come in from abroad. When most students set out to search for internship positions- for example in your case of IT, we often seek the Googles and Microsofts of our industry as our target employers. I admit that it is natural to be drawn to these successful blue-chip companies that have high reputations, but this may be a harmful strategy for an intern.
Besides being extremely competitive in their entry requirements, larger companies can be a great hindrance to acquiring diverse skills for an individual in intern position. The way they function- in large clearly defined teams and departments- often leaves no room for an intern to take up any meaningful responsibility or be directly involved in a large project. For this reason, you often find interns who spend their time during technical internships doing more secretarial duties. The level of bureaucracy is also significantly high for any decision that is to be made. Of course this is not always the case in every single company, but it happens quite often.
The remedy for this is seeking internship opportunities in smaller start-up companies. These firms are mainly characterised by small teams where roles and responsibilities are often not explicitly defined. They therefore provide room for interns to take part in diverse and more significant value duties that bear direct impact on the company’s outcomes. The quality of skills gained in such positions is greater both in quantity and quality since as an intern, you are exposed to management- level duties. In addition to the long list of benefits, start-ups place you in an environment where you are forced to be creative, to improvise and to think originally (without reading from a pre-existing script of instructions) which is an enriching process. You therefore rapidly develop strategic and creative problem solving skills which are highly demanded in the workplace. The small sized teams also allow for fast decision approval which makes the environment highly flexible and adaptive.
Drawing from a personal experience, pursuing my internship several years ago impacted my professional journey heavily. Having been tasked with vital responsibilities, I developed great project planning and execution. team management, reporting skills which later enabled me to secure a permanent position within the start-up. The chance to be part of a small and new venture has got to be one of the most rewarding for an entry-level professional.
There is no one sure way of getting the perfect internship, but the above solutions will serve as perfect reference points!
All the best!