The growing competition in the job sector has made it tough enough for fresh graduates to get an entry-level job. Moreover, most prospective employers think that they may need to invest a significant amount of resources to train a new workforce other than the experienced one -- resources that may go wasted if trained workers jump just after receiving the training.
If graduates want to be ready for their first job by increasing their employability, then getting work experience could be the first and most important step they could take. Even if one does not have formal internship experience, a lot of employers value an understanding of the world of work: managing time, meeting deadlines, dealing with tricky situations, and working in a hierarchy that resembles a corporation's structure.
An internship plays an instrumental role in gaining experience and developing professional skills that can make graduates fit in this competitive job market. Internships provide practical, real-world experience in a specific field or industry, allowing interns to apply their academic knowledge to actual work situations.
Defining the goals of the internship programme should be the foremost task for an intern. Internships are usually structured programmes typically designed for six to 12 weeks; even it can be a year long. So outlining the goals can make the learning period a more comprehensive experience.
Nusrat Ara, officer in charge of Kallyanpur Uposhaka, Gabtoli Bagbari Branch, IFIC Bank PLC Bangladesh, emphasised determining the purpose of doing an internship in a certain sector. She revealed that graduates must select the industry in which they are most interested in developing their career. She says, "Throughout my tenure at a reputable private bank, I have encountered numerous interns from a wide range of backgrounds who have no connection to the banking industry at all. Even many of them don't have any intention of pursuing their careers in this field." She added that such an internship will no longer bring any benefit to their career. Additionally, its advantages are restricted to preparing a sizable internship report and completing a part of the graduation program.
She also shared some sort of strategy to make the most of their internship experience. She says, "You should seek feedback and be open to constructive criticism. Sometimes this feedback will come in handy to identify your weaknesses and major areas for development. Also, when you seek feedback from your supervisor, your supervisor needs to pay closer attention to you and be more interested in supervising you to overcome your drawbacks. But you should avoid being defensive or dismissive when receiving constructive criticism."
She emphasised that interns should make an effort to grasp their tasks clearly. "You should not focus on completing tasks without understanding the broader context or learning from the experience. It's also important to ask questions when you are unsure about something. Avoiding questions out of fear of looking inexperienced can lead to mistakes or misunderstandings," she says.
Nishat Tabassum, a recent graduate in banking and insurance from the University of Chittagong, completed her internship at Sonali Bank PLC, delineates this as an opportunity to learn the differences between the surface of academic and professional life. She also believes that it enables a fresh graduate to be able to showcase his own talent and establish a strong network. "I tried to uphold a good relationship with all employees there and was confident enough to ask questions about new things to learn," she says. She assumes that being punctual and showing seriousness toward work can take the learning curve upward.
She also added that interns should show interest and be attentive when the work supervisor instructs them and should not interrupt employees while they are busy with their regular work. "You should give equal importance to the work assigned to you, whether it is small or big," she stressed.
Sayeed Hasan, assistant professor at the Department of Business Administration, Chittagong Independent University, discouraged the internship programme to be report-centric or research-based. He encourages maintaining a work log book-a detailed record of tasks, activities, and time spent during a specific period-that provides valuable insights into work patterns, appreciated by many universities. For instance, North South University and Chittagong Independent University encourage the interns to maintain a work log book. And it will be much easier for students to help track productivity, manage time effectively, and identify areas for improvement. Moreover, it will be significant to have a review of your prospective applications and interviews.
A comprehensive internship programme can give interns dynamic practical experience. Without any formal structure, internships won't bring any benefit to them. Mr Hasan strengthened the structured internship programme. He says, "Most of the organisations don't have such structured internship programmes as Unilever, BAT, Grameenphone, BSRM, Robi Oxiata etc. do. Policies should be developed to mark a framework for internship programmes by close collaboration between academia and industry." He said that the organisations should make payments to interns, and they must be properly paid.