Why is an internship a good idea?Posted by Adam Schwarz on Jul 11, 2019. Reading time: 5 mins
Hi! I’m Adam, the latest team member at Refuel!
I've recently joined the Refuel team as Junior Designer after completing a Bachelor of Information Technology (Digital Media) at Flinders University. I knew that this journey would be challenging and fast-paced but I had no idea what lay ahead of me!
To complete my degree, I was given the choice between undertaking a vocational placement as part of the Flinders Work Integrated Learning (WIL) program, or a semester-long project at university with other classmates. I chose the work placement because I believed that even a week of experience in the workplace is worth more in the long run than spending another semester in a classroom.
Now that I've completed my internship at Refuel, I know I made the right decision.
For my internship, the Managing Director, Ryan, tasked me with redesigning the brand and website for the event that was formerly known as Social Media Day Adelaide, now rebranded to Digital Adelaide and being run by Refuel in 2019.
The chance to work on a real-world marketing and technology project has been hugely beneficial to me. Particularly receiving instant feedback from professionals in the industry about my work.
While working on the Digital Adelaide rebranding, I also had access to many resources that I simply didn’t have at home. Programs like the entire Adobe Suite, WordPress plugins and of course the Refuel team were invaluable to further my education and training.
Learning the ropes
At the beginning of my placement, I experienced a steep learning curve as I tried to adapt from the classroom standard to the workplace level. The standard of work required at Refuel was much higher and the deadlines were significantly less forgiving.
I had expected all of these factors prior to commencing the placement. Even so, it still took some time to adjust to the new environment.
Ryan and the other staff at Refuel were amazing during this adjustment period and through the rest of my placement. They maintained a relaxed and friendly office environment where even someone as quiet as me eventually learned to speak up and ask questions.
Throughout the first 3 or 4 weeks of my placement, both I and Ryan noticed that my technical skills improved drastically. Even more noticeable though was the development of my conceptual skills. My ability to create a concept that could be developed into a full brand was surprising even to me.
Initially, my concepts were, and I can say this with the clarity of hindsight, downright awful. They really had no potential to be developed out into a full brand. At least not a brand that would appeal to anyone.
Now, I’ve developed and proven my abilities to a stage where Refuel was prepared to offer me a full-time position as a Junior Designer once my placement ended.
Why is an internship valuable?
Completing the internship aided my career development by allowing me to develop the skills required to operate at a professional level. It also gave me that much-needed experience in the workplace that it seems all employers are looking for in students and graduates applying for entry-level roles.
I think that’s one of the biggest benefits for students undertaking part-time or full-time work placements and internship programs. If you can honestly include proven work experience on your resume, you’re much more likely to get the job you’re applying for.
One other thing that I gained from the placement was a much clearer idea of what I want to do post-university. In the classroom, you can learn all the theory and practical skills but it won’t give you a proper idea of what it’s like to work in the industry. That’s something that can only come from first-hand experience.
Things to consider
Being able to undertake my placement as part of Flinders WIL placement program, as opposed to seeking out an internship on my own, had a few benefits. Namely, it gave my application a layer of legitimacy.
If I had been applying without being able to attach Flinders University to my application, I feel that many small businesses would have been more reluctant to provide me with an internship.
Being part of the WIL program also provided me with a safety net of sorts. If I had issues with the workplace, which I thankfully didn’t, the support of my Academic Supervisor or the organisers of the WIL program was available to me.
My placement gave me that experience in the digital marketing industry, but more specifically within that, I got to see what it was really like to work as a graphic designer and a web developer. Which were two areas I studied at university that I was particularly interested in.
Since completing my placement, I am more certain of my career path. I am confident in my decision to enter into the digital marketing industry; which will allow me to work with both graphic and web design.
To anyone who might be planning their career path and wondering if an unpaid internship is worth it, I can honestly say it is. An internship is a great way to get your foot in the door and immerse yourself into the industry. If you can find an honest employer who genuinely cares about your development, then it will be one of, if not the most, valuable part of your education and professional development.
Adam is Refuel's Graduate Designer