Should You Be a Graduate Intern?

If you are unsure of what to do after graduation or need more work experience, doing an internship may be the best course of action. Let’s take a look at some pros and cons of being a graduate intern.
Jasmine Mun_Writer_gradmalaysia_round
Jasmine Mun
Writer, gradmalaysia
Should You Be a Graduate Intern?_mainphoto

If you haven’t done an internship during your studies, jumping straight into the corporate world might be a little tough, as employers may prefer candidates with at least some experience in the industry. It isn’t always the best idea to enter any industry without prior exposure to it as well. What if the role is not actually what you imagined it to be?

You might be thinking, “What about graduate programmes? Aren’t they just longer internships but for graduates?” Not quite. A graduate programme carries more weight than an internship and is intended to fast-track qualified candidates for leadership and management roles. You might not even be able to get into one if you don’t have any relevant work experience in the first place.

So if you’re a fresh graduate in need of more relevant work experience, it may be a good idea to take a bit of time off to try out more internships instead of trying to rush into a full-time job. That said, there are certainly pros and cons to consider when making such a decision.

The Pros: Why You Should Do It

You Could Get One Foot in the Door 

Many recruiters may think twice before providing you with full-time employment if they have yet to see your potential. An internship is a different story, though. Internships offer recruiters the chance to get an accurate assessment of your capabilities and suitability for longer-term roles within their organisation, without having to commit as much time and resources as they might have to for a full-time graduate hire.

It is actually quite common for graduate interns to be converted into full-time hires if they perform well. In fact, many employers find former interns to be a “safer bet” compared to fresh hires, since they already have a firsthand demonstration of your capabilities and fit with their company culture.

Even if you are not converted to a full-time staff member, the experience will still look great on your CV, and you can use the experience as a stepping stone to explore opportunities with other employers.

You Get to Know More About an Industry

Not sure if being a Talent Acquisition Executive in HR is right for you? Try doing an internship in that role! While you’re at it, you can also poke your nose into other roles within HR, such as Payroll or Industrial Relations, to understand how they work, what is expected of them, and if that’s something you may like more.

An internship allows you to explore a field and have a clearer picture of your career goals. However, it is still your responsibility to be proactive and make full use of the time and resources available to learn as much as you can about the industry and any potential roles within it.

In terms of expert advice, you may not always be assigned a dedicated mentor as an intern.  However, you can always ask someone friendly in the organisation to answer any burning questions you may have about the industry and what it means to work within it.

You Can Expand Your Professional Network

As you work and learn from colleagues and managers during your internship, you will slowly build your professional network. This can be very helpful for your future job search.

Try to network as much as possible during your internship, and make an effort to put your best self out there. For all you know, you may encounter someone who’s looking for candidates to fill a full-time position in their department.

Remember to connect with your immediate co-workers and managers on LinkedIn as well. Do a great job with your internship, and you can ask them to provide recommendations and testimonials for you to use there too! 

The Cons: What You Should Keep In Mind

Anticipate Lower Pay  

It is no secret that as an intern, you will be paid significantly less than your peers who hold permanent jobs. If you are living independently and supporting your own expenses, an internship may not sit well for you financially.

Take some time in advance to think about the commitments you have. Did you take up a student loan that requires immediate repayment upon graduation? Do you have a family that needs your financial support? These are some questions you need to ask yourself if you are considering doing internships even after graduation.

Be Prepared to Face Questions 

Organisations often reserve internship opportunities specifically for current students. So as a fresh graduate, you need to be prepared to explain to recruiters why you were looking for an internship at this stage.  

While some universities require their students to complete internships as part of their courses, not all do. If the latter is the case for you, then be ready to explain that to recruiters during your internship interview – especially if you had no prior internships before graduation, whatever your reasons for that may be.

That said, don’t try to cover up your lack of experience or pretend to be someone you’re not. Be honest with recruiters about why you are seeking an internship as a fresh graduate, and what you hope to get out of this experience in exchange.  

You Need to Keep Track of Your Own Learning

As a graduate intern, you may not have to report the outcomes of your internship to your university anymore. However, this means that you and only you can be accountable for the learning outcomes of your internship. It’s important to be transparent with your manager/supervisor about what you hope to get out of your internship and the skills you want to pick up. For example, as an HR intern, rather than just brewing coffee for meetings and arranging interview appointments, you’ll want to be screening potential candidates or doing some form of recruitment marketing work.

Showing initiative, requesting more responsibilities, and constantly keeping track of your own learning progress will help you grow professionally as an intern. Don’t be content to just spin your wheels while being treated as cheap labour.