The long holidays have started and some teens and adult children are idle, only watching TV, eating and surfing the internet. After all the happenings in the last year, and the fact that international borders are gradually being open, travel and family time is important. Children also need to rest, catch their breaths and unwind but they don’t need to do that for the entire holiday. Take advantage of the long holiday to add huge value to their future, in preparation for when they start to work.
From a very young age, students are expected to get the best grades possible. This puts so much pressure on our young people. Grades do matter, but remember that they are not everything; having good grades doesn’t necessarily translate into a good job or make you a great employee. There is so much more to life than grades.
Of course, as Nigerian parents, we desire and can be blinded by those A grades, but work experience, an array of extracurricular activities, and interests have become as important as exam or coursework grades in the search for top candidates. A well-chosen internship opportunity often gives students an edge.
Hands-on practical experience
It is on the job that you can truly hone some professional skills and gain hands-on, real-world experience outside the classroom. Theory is important but it comes alive when you are given an opportunity to put that knowledge into practice. This prepares you to go back to school equipped with greater understanding and fresh perspectives on the subject matter, reinforcing classroom concepts.
Interning provides an opportunity for you to work in a team – one of the most essential ingredients for success. This throws up many aspects of character, leadership, collaboration, technical skills, managing deadlines, responsibility etc. It is from this that a sound work ethic can be built.
“An audition in disguise”
An internship can lead to a full-time job at your host company. If you’ve left a great impression that you are hardworking, committed, intelligent, and capable, you are certainly in a more competitive position to be considered than even those with far superior grades since your bosses are already familiar with your work ethic.
Internships give you a foot in the door; this is an ideal way for both employer and intern to test the waters for a period before committing fully. If you’ve impressed them, you’ll probably make the final list even ahead of candidates more accomplished and with stronger credentials than you.
Test the waters
So many young people embark on a path only to find after considerable time and expense, that they wish to change direction. Ideally, it would be nice to know as early as possible where your strengths are and where you will find fulfillment. An internship usually lasts for about 3–6 months. This is a great opportunity to test out a job or career path with enough time to learn whether or not it is a good fit without a long-term commitment.
You might also try out various sectors during each vacation; different careers demand varying skill sets. This way, you get a wide range of experience under your belt and can begin to narrow down your choices as you identify your strengths as well as areas in which you feel challenged.
Apart from the formal roles, there are numerous other opportunities to consider; from volunteering and community service, helping at a holiday camp, waiting tables in a restaurant, sales clerk at a local store.
Have you thought of setting up a business?
What are your talents and skills that make you stand out? Have you ever considered the possibility of monetizing them? The long vacation is a great time to explore the possibility of collaborating with others to set up your own business. This really impresses employers.
The family business
If you have some hope of your children eventually joining the family business, the holidays are a good time to have them spend some time learning from you from the bottom of the ladder. Over years, they will become familiar with the ethos and vision of the family business. The mistake many families make is to impose their adult children as Executive Directors with little to no interest or knowledge about the family firm. Far too many family businesses do not survive much beyond the life of the founder.
Relevant work experience
If you already have an idea of the path that you wish to pursue, select a firm in that field that will help equip you to prepare for future interviews and direction by gaining invaluable industry knowledge. Employers tend to choose candidates that have some experience that is relevant to the position they are actually hiring for; this puts you up on the learning curve and helps you settle into a new role with ease.
But keep an open mind; it is useful to expand your horizon; you may just find an area that you might never have considered, that suits you perfectly. Also with the level of unemployment out there, you may well need to just grab a job if you are offered one.
Professional connections are among the most valuable networks that you can have in your life. Even if you are not retained for a full-time position, the networks that you build from even a short stint can be invaluable whether for providing mentoring and support as you grow or for career advice, references, or recommendations for your next job.
Find a mentor, but remember that a senior colleague is more likely to take interest in an interested, committed, hardworking intern and not someone that is always late, unresponsive, doesn’t meet deadlines, and adds little or no value.
Should money be a factor?
As far as possible, try not to let money be the overarching deciding factor when you are thinking of interning. Gaining useful experience should be your goal for the value it will bring to your resume and your personal life. Of course, for most, it is impossible to accept a role for any length of time, without pay. However, it is a pity to have to turn down an excellent but unpaid internship opportunity, as this significantly limits available opportunities.
One of the greatest benefits of interning is earning and learning to manage your own money. Money that you have earned from your own sweat tends to have more meaning than allowances and gifts from parents. Hard work builds discipline and frugality; when you work hard to earn, you are more selective in your spending choices.
Time is a fundamental ingredient of successful investing as funds set aside have time to appreciate in value. This presents a wonderful opportunity to set aside at least part of your income and begin the journey to financial independence. Mutual funds are ideal for small savers with entry as low as N5,000; the key is to be consistent and to think long term.
And a word for parents…encourage your children to earn. Working daily, whether physically or online, is an important step to financial responsibility. It is not the amount of money your child earns, but the lessons learned that count. The sense of independence and accomplishment provides a child with a solid foundation for their development and when they leave home, you will have that knowledge that they are capable, independent and can take care of themselves and their loved ones.