In South Africa, youth unemployment remains the highest in the world, unrivalled at a staggering 63.9% in the age group 15-24 and 42.1% in the 25-34 age category. With young people constituting close to 36% of the overall population, it’s never been more important to identify ways of absorbing youth into the local labour force.
Anne-Marie Pretorius, managing director at Bizmod Consulting, says that for organisations ranging from micro to multinational, internships are a not only a way of providing real-life exposure for scholars and graduates looking to enter the job market, but also a viable avenue to unearth bright minds, new skills and future talent.
“Internships play an important role in the shaping of a young career allowing young people to gain insights into a variety of working environments,” Pretorius says.
“In a post-COVID workplace where employees continue to work primarily from home, or in a hybrid arrangement, the challenge for both interns and employers alike is to navigate these relationships from behind a screen and keyboard – something rather unfamiliar.”
Internship tips in South Africa
Pretorius shares five considerations when undertaking an internship:
1. Broaden your expectations
When you arrive at a new job, at any level, it’s unlikely that you’ll immediately find deep satisfaction and love for what you do. When starting out in your career path, you’ll be drawn into many activities that you don’t particularly enjoy or derive much pleasure from. “An internship is something that you’ll have to persist at to eventually gain mastery in your career and gain ultimate satisfaction,” says Pretorius.
2. Insist on a full induction
In some instances, interns are added to a permanent team when there is an oversupply of work and under-supply of resources. The result is an “all-hands-on-deck” approach whereby formal inductions and onboarding might be overlooked in favour of getting the job done.
Pretorius says that it is vital for any new entrant to get a full sense of a business, its background, vision and reason for being, prior (or alongside) to rolling up their sleeves. “Gaining a view on the business you’ve joined is really important to understand where your work fits in and how you can make a difference in the business,” she adds.
3. Leave the role better off than when you joined
Pretorius says that the best interns that she has worked with were those that arrived with an immediate willingness to learn and a high level of energy and enthusiasm. “Displaying a sense of professionalism is key, but also the desire to leave whomever and whatever they work with and on, better off,” she explains.
4. Be bold enough to ask
Although it might be nerve-racking, interns must demonstrate the boldness to ask if they’re not sure of the task or situation. “I find that many interns might be scared to ask and ultimately, it only leads to damage to both them and the task or programme they might be working on,” says Pretorius.
5. Cherish your mentor
Pretorius says that a mentorship or internship programme is only successful when mentors are committed to the process and bring passion to the responsibility. She adds, “It’s important to understand that internships take an immense amount of time and dedication from team members who are tasked with teaching and guiding their intern.”
Pretorius says that for employers, selection is really key when it comes to a successful internship. “Selecting an intern candidate that is going to naturally fit in from the beginning is a game changer. Whether it’s from a personality, culture or approach perspective, it makes the whole process far easier for everybody, the intern included.”