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Money Matters with Nimi: Get Your Foot in the Door with Internships

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.



What are your teen-age or adult children doing during the long holidays? Of course, after a gruelling academic year, it is important to enjoy some precious family time at home or on vacation, and for them to get some rest, unwind, so they are refuelled before the new academic year. But do they need to be on holiday for three months? Take advantage of the long holiday, make it more than a vacation. It can add huge value to their future.

From a very young age, students are expected to get the best grades possible. This puts so much pressure on our young ones. Grades do matter, but remember that they are not everything; having good grades doesn’t necessarily translate into a good job, 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 and 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 professional skills and gain hands-on, real-world experience. Theory is important, but it comes alive when you are given an opportunity to put that knowledge into practice. This prepares you to return to school equipped with greater understanding and fresh perspectives on the subject matter.

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 lie and where you will find fulfilment. An internship usually lasts for about three to six 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 the 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 impresses employers no end.

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, which will help equip you to prepare for future interviews, and give you 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, one 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.

Valuable connections
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.

Money as a factor
As far as possible, try not to let money be the deciding factor when you are thinking of interning. Gaining useful experience should be your goal, 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.

Financial responsibility
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 in successfully 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 ₦5,000; the key is to be consistent and to think long term.

And a word for parents: encourage your children to earn. Leaving home to go out to work every day is an important step to financial responsibility. It is not the amount of money your child earns, but the lessons learned that counts. 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.

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