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What are the advantages of an internship?

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Given that SMEs comprise 98% of Scotland’s business ecosystem, should more small businesses ask: what could my business do for an intern, and what could an intern do for my business?

When thinking of internships, we often picture large corporations and established early careers programmes. For myself, and many other young people in the pandemic job market, these certainly seem like an obvious place to look for that crucial work experience. With aspirations to work in PR or Communications, I was delighted to start an internship at Women’s Enterprise Scotland (who delivers the Women’s Business Centre). I’ve been able to kickstart my career with valuable experience, working closely with a team of inspiring women. Based on my experiences at WES, I’m going to look at some of the advantages of taking on an intern…

Be an ambassador for the younger generation

The WES Ambassador Programme recognises how role models can inspire and influence other women in enterprise. Working on this project during my internship, I’ve watched the Ambassadors in action and learned from their business stories. Alongside the WES Ambassadors, I have also benefitted from working day-to-day with talented women and business owners. This has broadened my horizons when considering future careers. I now consider how I can use my own entrepreneurial skills, and have even looked into taking on a board role – something that I didn’t know was possible for a young person! Equally, for women business owners, sharing your experience with a member of the younger generation can be great for self-development, too. Being a mentor is a fantastic tool for self-reflection, and an empowering exercise for both parties involved.

Cross the digital divide

In the last year, businesses have undergone a massive transformation, adapting to remote working and a digital way of life. Armed with digital know-how, plenty of experience on social media and an eagerness to gather work experience, an intern can help your business thrive in this hyper-digital era. At WES, I worked on cross-platform social media campaigns, edited websites and produced new digital content. Being introduced to courses on Google Digital Garage further nurtured my digital skills. The internship was a platform to put these new skills into practice and contribute to the organisation: everyone’s a winner!

Don’t let remote working be a barrier

Perhaps one of the biggest perceived challenges of taking on an intern is being unable to weclome them in person. I was nervous about joining a team of people on the other end of a screen… would I ever feel properly integrated? How could I make a strong impression? However, it’s been a really positive and welcoming experience. Whether the work is in-person or remote, the same rules apply. By establishing clear expectations and open communication, where questions are encouraged and feedback is given, you can deliver a mutually rewarding internship.

A joint process of development

As well as providing an internship programme based on your own business needs, you can work together to establish shared goals. Of course, it’s a fantastic opportunity for a young person to gather valuable insights from your business. However, they can also bring value to you. An outsider can bring fresh perspective: they might be your target market, or bring new, creative solutions to your business.

Gaynor, the PR Manager at WES, started her long and successful career with an internship. She explains how this step was a mutually beneficial experience:

“I completed a six-month internship at a public relations and public affairs consultancy in Edinburgh. Not only was it the starting point for demonstrating practical experience, but it also provided a valuable transition from undergraduate student life into full time employment. This was a huge boost for my career as well providing a number of benefits for the consultancy. They got access to fresh, new ideas and an enthusiastic, extra pair of hands. The internship helped to boost their productivity at a time when they had a number of complex projects on the go and needed additional talent for a specific time period to manage the workload.”

It’s time to change the conversation around internships and consider them for your business. Not only will you be supporting a young person’s career in an uncertain job market, but it’s a win-win for your business, too.

Find out about employee rights and pay for interns here, and visit the GOV.UK site for more guidance on best practice for providing internships.

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Womens Business Centre
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