I spent a lot of my time in school decrying companies who expected you to have years of work experience when you’re barely out of the school; I was wrong. You need to take as many internships as you can while you’re in the university, polytechnic or college of education.
- Real Life Experience trumps Theoretical knowledge
A University education is great; the best. It proves you possess an academic proficiency in theoretical and maybe practical (LOL for my Federal University folks) comprehension of a certain field.
But that is all. Shikena.
Your education is that great car you bought. Internships however are the driving lessons you need to make that car useful for. An internship gives life to the myriad of abstract theories you learnt in school by placing you in front of real life professional tasks.
Yes, you may have to run a lot of seemingly menial errands,
go and buy jollof rice and dodo from a nearby restaurant along the way; but the real life work you will observe cannot be replaced.
- Find what makes you tick (or doesn’t)
Internships help you figure out if you even belong in this profession you have chosen, if yes, what is it you love? What aspect would you excel at the most?
Let me tell you a little story;
I studied Electrical & Electronic Engineering in the university and whenever anyone asked me where I saw myself working, I would tell them a Telecommunications company (mostly because I thought there was money in telecoms). I went through 3 compulsory internships during my stay in school, two of which were in power-related organisations; I enjoyed the work occasionally but never found any passion on the job.
Along the line, I missed out on having my 3rd internship at a big telecoms company and thought I was screwed. I mean, that was the supposed “dream”. I ended up as an intern at a manufacturing company instead and my stay in their control engineering department helped me find my Eureka moment. I discovered that I was absolutely crazy about the automation processes they needed for the steady flow of production and there it was, I found what I truly enjoyed about the so-called engineering I was studying.
Now, whenever I hear people talking about going for their masters right after undergrad, it worries me because I want to ask them if they are completely sure of the field. Like me, some of them discovered what they wanted or didn’t from internships, while on the other hand, some hope a masters in “something sha” would give them an upper hand in the job market.
That mindset is not fair though. It’s not fair to the field you’re choosing because you do not even know if you will enjoy it. In my head I liken this to getting into an arranged marriage or basing your decisions on the roll of a die. That field deserves better. You deserve better.
- Acquire skills that make you stand out
The problem most students face is that quite a number of programs in Nigerian schools do not encourage internships as they should. Regardless, this should not deter you. Companies all over Nigeria have learnt that offering internships is a win-win situation therefore you can find placements for yourself.
Maybe they offer you a stipend, maybe not, as a student you’re going to be gaining more than you think you’re giving. You get to learn a lot about yourself too; how well do you work in a team? Do you show initiative and go the extra mile? How fast a learner are you? Are you a multitasker or would you rather focus all of your energy on a project at a time? These are questions employers want answered before they take you on. It is why they require some level of experience most of the time. No one has the time to teach you how to be a good team player, please learn it on your own time.
As an intern who has demonstrated these qualities in an organization, your employers can hardly wait to hire you after school because they have ascertained your proficiency without a rigorous interview process.
In addition, as a student gunning for the entrepreneurial path, the ones who do not want to be considered by employers but want to be employers themselves, internships are equally as important to you.
Imagine you’re studying a 4-year course. There’s a 3-month break at the end of every session. Find yourself placed in an organisation during this time instead of faffing around in the house, that’s 3 months for 4 years = 12 months. One year experience right there. Voila!
And that’s ignoring the other times during the session when you’re not as occupied, a weekend job maybe? The point is, do not wait till after you’re done with school to find internship placements, platforms exist to solve that problem for you.
Pick up as much talent and experience as you can alongside your degree; one should not come before the other.