Being an intern is an exciting opportunity that allows for the transition from higher education into the workplace gaining that all important ‘work experience’. But what is an intern? An intern is essentially work experience, for an extended period of time.
Now you may think that you have work experience, after all you’ve worked in retail or hospitality all the way through Uni, but the corporate workplace is very different. And whilst you’ve put in hours of study and you have gained valuable qualifications, to a prospective employer, you are not ‘job ready’. Becoming an intern gives you three things:
- Firstly, an internship allows you to navigate the world of corporate work and particularly get used to the lingo. So, when you are sitting in a meeting and the conversation turns to ‘growth hacking’, ‘pain points’, or ‘boiling the ocean’ you understand what they mean. Getting on top of corporate speak, means the language you use in your next interview, is more business focussed and you can speak with ease about how you worked with stakeholders on a particular project. It also allows you to get used to the rhythm of the working week, meeting etiquette, and how to best manage your time.
- Secondly, an internship is an opportunity for you to learn some of the key skills used in a particular role, as well as understand how what you have learned on your course, is applied in a real work setting. It’s one of the key reasons that we have included a guaranteed internship in our Buying & Planning ULTIMATE program. Students get to study the theory and see it put into practice, which deepens the learning experience.
- Thirdly, having an intern gives a prospective employer the opportunity to try before they buy. Having someone work within your company over several months gives an insight into a person’s work ethic and character in the way that an interview cannot. And this works both ways. For the intern, it’s an opportunity to see if the employer is somewhere they would like to work long term. Whilst a job role at the end of the internship is not guaranteed, it does put you in the best place, should a role become available.
So, what is involved in the role of an intern?
Well, this varies from company to company and industry to industry, however, an intern should never be considered just free, or cheap labour. We provide our students with an intern pack, that acts as a guide for both the intern and their retail partner, gives some structure to their internship and includes things like:
- Shadowing a buyer or merchandise planner
- Working alongside an experienced Assistant Buyer or Planner to gain an understanding of process and procedures
- Attending weekly/monthly sales meetings
- Preparing for and attending range reviews
- Learning the key role skills of a Buyer’s Assistant or Allocator
- Undertaking a project and presenting to the management team
So, how do you get the most out of your internship?
The most important thing you can do is turn up each day with enthusiasm and a thirst to learn more. Be helpful, be prepared to roll your sleeves up and have a ‘can-do’ attitude. Assist colleagues with projects, research and clerical duties.
It’s OK for the intern not to know, but once you take on a real role, the expectation of your capabilities and knowledge changes, so, ask questions, take notes and seek clarification if you are not sure.
Part of your internship experience will involve finding someone to mentor you throughout your duration at the company. They will be your go-to, and help you find your way through the role of an intern.
Lastly, use it as an opportunity to develop your network, enjoy your time as an intern and ensure you use it to springboard your career!