It was almost 7 years ago when I completed my first internship and I think it is fair to say that it was one of the biggest turning points in my life to date. For years I had been adamant that I wanted a career in law and so, during my A Levels, I walked in for my first day of work experience at a major law firm (I won’t mention the name here!!) confident that this was the first step in a long and successful legal career.
So now I sit here as a successful lawyer….. Hang on a minute, that’s not right, now I work for a bank. So what happened?????
Well, it turns out that my week with a law firm made me realise that it wasn’t the career for me. Despite doing plenty of research online and speaking to some lawyers, there was no substitute for trying the job for real. Within weeks I had completely changed my university applications and my dream of being a lawyer disappeared overnight. Two years later, having started at university and decided that I might like a career in banking, I embarked on my first of two internships with HSBC.
The contrast to my experience in law was vast. From day one I enjoyed the pace of work and variety of jobs that were available. The constant focus on building relationships with customers and the real sense of being part of a team made me leave work every day with a smile on my face. After seven weeks at HSBC I realised that I wanted to work in this industry and, more importantly, for this company. Four years on and here I am, still at HSBC and still relieved that I spent that week in law where I learnt so much about myself.
“But why is this guy rambling on about his life story,” I hear you ask…..
Well, the answer is this. There are a number of very important, but very obvious, reasons to take part in an internship:
· They add valuable experience to put on your CV
· They teach you a lot of practical skills that you can apply to future jobs
· You can build a strong network of contacts for your future
· They help you earn some money over the summer!
However, the most important thing that you will get out of an internship is the chance to find out if this is the career for you. The money won’t change your life and you could gain experience and make contacts elsewhere, but the opportunity to really experience life within a company for a few weeks is something that no amount of online research and recruitment events can replace. It is, in my opinion, the only way that you can truly know that a career is right for you.
If you are sitting at home reading this blog, uncertain about working in a certain industry, my advice to you would be to find an internship and give it a try. At the end of the summer if it’s not the right job for you, you have a chance to move on and look for other options. The experience will still be on your CV and everything you have learnt will help you greatly when you finally decide on a different career path.
And for those of you who are just about to start an internship, my advice to you is this:
- Take every opportunity available – even if the task sounds boring, it might be a great way to learn and meet new people.
- Don’t expect to be an expert after only a couple of days. Just aim to learn quickly, ask lots of questions and try not to make the same mistake twice!
- Build good relationships and try to keep in touch with the people that you meet along the way. You never know when you might need their help.
- Finally, be yourself. You could potentially spend the next 20 years at this company – that is a long time to pretend to be something you’re not!!
I hope this has been helpful in showing you the value of internships. My story is not uncommon and I have numerous friends from my banking internships who moved into very different industries. Don’t be afraid to try a different career if you decide that this sector isn’t really for you. If you don’t enjoy it after a couple of months, just imagine what a working there for a couple of years will be like…
by Rich T
Rich T is currently a manager at First Direct in Leeds, he is a different Richard to the one who has previously posted and would be very upset if the two of them were confused!