By Rebecca Bodman (Originally posted on Business Chicks)
As part of my uni degree, I had to complete a six-month paid internship. As an 18-year-old who’d just moved from Canberra to Sydney, six months of full-time paid work that counted toward my degree, meant I was cheering. I also kind of felt like a character in Gossip Girl – an internship felt so chic – especially at a five star hotel.
When an internship is good, it’s really good. A structured internship program is invaluable – over six months I was exposed to every department of the hotel and I lapped up every second – even making beds and cleaning toilets. But seriously, how else can you gain exposure and experience like that. Yep, I had to do the crappy stuff (literally!), but I also got a peep into the inner workings of a hotel. I got to look at what my career could look like if I was to take that path after uni. After my internship finished, I was offered a job that I jumped at and juggled while I completed my degree. And because of my experience in other departments I was able to offer more than employees who’d worked in their role for years. My internship was like a career tasting platter and ultimately led me to decide that hotels were just not where I wanted to be, and what could be a greater gift than that?
Just before I finished my degree I fell in love at first sight– it was with Business Chicks – and our relationship is still going strong seven years later. At the time they were a small start-up with four employees and weren’t hiring. I literally begged to be involved and secured an internship working one to two days a week. I would have done anything to just hang around the energy of Business Chicks – I arrived early, left late and would have juggled apples, made coffee all day or shined Emma’s shoes if they’d asked. I just loved being surrounded by these incredible women and learning, learning, learning.
“At the time they were a small start-up with four employees and weren’t hiring.”
That’s the key to a good internship; you’ve got to want to be there. And the company needs to want you there too. It’s cliché; but I wouldn’t be where I am today without internships. Both opened doors and gave me access to things I’d never have gotten if I’d taken a normal entry-level job; Business Chicks offered me a full-time role two months into the internship and I’ve never left. And in my time with the company, I’ve loved being part of our internship program, I guess I have a soft spot. Of course we’ve had our share of good, great and awkward interns, but for the most part, the young people that intern with us are starry-eyed, keen to learn and full of new ideas and energy – I see in them what I felt – just this desire to be surrounded by infectious energy and people that genuinely love their work. We’ve offered a number of our interns full-time roles and helped others secure their dream jobs through our network. It’s a win, win.
“That’s the key to a good internship; you’ve got to want to be there. And the company needs to want you there too.”
Young women often come to me asking for advice on how to land their dream job and my answer is always to seek out an internship. We’re now in a world where a university degree is expected, it doesn’t set you apart in the job market. But real experience will. An internship gives you a foot in the door, a peep at what the future could be and how else can you get that?