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I WRITE this after sending, most likely, one of my last emails to my employer. A one-month paid internship, secured through the University, meant a new phone and a new LinkedIn connection. Vanity aside, an internship provided me with a plethora of opportunities that, in my view, supersedes the anxieties of sorting out any internship, whether that be paid or not. In the end, it’s an investment in your future.

Internships offer invaluable work experience. Having an internship, whether it be a summer long or a month long, provides you with a glimpse of working in a professional environment. Tailoring your own internship and making the most out of it determines the nature of its success. The more you invest in your internship and commit to it, the more skills and opportunities arrive. For me, working in an office made me realise how different working and higher education are. In my experience, professionals care more about your experience than your education. In addition, the skills I gained, such as responsibility and discipline, have proved beneficial for me and my CV.

Internships create better time-management skills. The phrase “time is money” is crucial here. Having an internship, especially during term-time, shows future employers that you can juggle your degree and employment and you may find that you treat your degree as more of a 9-5 job. For example, when you have tasks to complete in a limited time frame, it pushes you.

This pressure is different to the pressure of academia as you know you only have four hours to complete the task, whereas, technically, you could have the whole day, to read or write an essay.

Therefore, internships are beneficial to not only your CV but also your university career. Internships also further your network. Have you heard of the theory of ‘six degrees of separation’? This is the idea that everyone is six or fewer social connections away from each other. Networking is vital as it increases your exposure to information, opportunity and professional advice. Therefore, having an internship broadens your network. In fact, my internship not only provided me with professional writing advice but also video editing and graphic designing, which I think will be helpful later in my career.

Internships help you stand out in the cut-throat graduate competition. Not many employers recruit graduates without any experience in the field and an internship can be your way in. The hours of your internship can go towards the Exeter Award, which is an employability achievement award for students. The Exeter Award – and subsequent internships – could differentiate you from the competition because it shows you are being proactive and making the most out of your resources. The whole internship experience may also lead to you discovering that the particular career choice is not for you.

To be paid or not to be paid? That is a difficult question, and one that doesn’t always end up being answered the way you wish it was. No one wants to (and not everyone can afford to) work for free, but if you remember that internships provide you with contacts, experience and skills for the future then this is equally as valuable as a salary in the long term.

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