Dr. Yogini Joglekar is APAC Director, Corporate and Academic Relations at Mountbatten Institute. She can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org
During campus visits for delivering talks to students and alumni on building workplace competencies for 21st century professionals, a hand inevitably goes up to ask the question: “How do I take my classroom learning and utilize it in the workplace?” It seems daunting to condense many years of schooling and to crystallize it into that one brilliant comment at a crucial client meeting or a slide deck you are helping your boss to put together for getting senior management buy-in for the department’s next budget review. The answer, as is often the case, lies in practice making perfect. Internships, defined by Webster as supervised practical experience in a professional setting for students or young professionals, are an ideal playground for you to test your limits and hone your skills.
In the 14th century already, apprentices were willingly undergoing indentured servitude to learn a craft or trade from a master and build their skills repertoire. It is the same concept of implementing the learnings from your university degree and adding value to the company while building your skill-set, which makes for the best transitions from the academic to the corporate world in the 21st century. This can be achieved by using the Porter’s Five Forces model from your Marketing class for competitor analysis, creating a macro to shave off time and resources on a process, digitizing your company’s archives, or going back to Shakespeare to create a new brand name for a client.
More often than not, it is the life skills that you have learned during your schooling which will be the ones most emphasized in a work setting, which can come as somewhat of a shock to graduates. Thus, the lateral thinking and communications skills from your debating club experience, the fundraising and teamwork experience from your college fest, your time management skills from balancing a grueling study and extra-curricular schedule, your attention to detail from your college publication editing experience, all come in handy while pitching to a client, generating buzz for your manager’s idea in a cross-team setting, or helping bring a project to on-time, error-free delivery.
For an internship to be successful, you must be willing to take a leap of faith across that bridge from academia into industry by observing, imbibing, and above all, participating. You need to engage in the core business of the company, make meaningful contributions through your internship project, build a professional network of peers and mentors, and develop your communication skills. It is highly recommended that you present your internship project findings in the workplace at the conclusion of your internship: this will give you valuable practitioners’ perspectives on your ideas along with an academic grade. You must take charge of your internship, and treat it as a learning opportunity, not merely as a chance to get an experience letter or a line on your resume.