Internships: what you need to know that no-one tells you

Our columnist Matthew Reeves on what he's learnt about internships from his own somewhat unusual experiences

I'm writing this on my birthday, on an overnight plane from a business trip to Las Vegas. Being surrounded by middle-aged white men talking about how they saw "Snoop Dogg" reminds me that, edging closer to 30, I'm actually probably an adult now.

And being an adult who has had many jobs, I've also met a good many interns in my time, and I can tell you that there are essentially three game plans that they play.

1) Trading up: You don't think you'll get the internship in the role or at the employer you actually want , so you're working your way up. Perhaps you want to work for an investment bank, but have decided to go for something smaller first.

This is a very good strategy.

2) Sideways move: You like the company you're working for, but you're not intelligent enough to get into the stream you want. You might be in the back office of an investment bank when your real aim is to be a trader.

If you think this sounds like a really smart plan, then congratulations - you're just like me. And sorely mistaken! I can attest that this is a really terrible strategy. But go for it if you want to.

3) Get a job offer in the department you interned in and stay there. Apparently some people do this?! If that's you, perhaps just quickly check you aren't a sociopath or suffering from chronic boring bastard syndrome. If not, go for it!

A few jobs ago, the small firm I worked for then had two interns, both after an offer but going about it in very different ways. It was interesting to see the game plans that they chose once in the office.

The first was a character. He'd come to work after playing video games all night, but you wouldn't know if he hadn't excitedly blurted it out. He'd curl up for 20 minutes on his lunch break and return bouncing at 1.20pm exactly. He was the kind who'd tag along to after work drinks for a little too long. He became known as the hype man - his work wasn't great, but he kept morale up.

The other intern was a prodigy who completed school four years early, and was in his fourth year of an engineering degree aged nineteen. The kid was a genius. All his work was excellent quality. No idea of anything else about him as he never said anything. He didn't get a job - the other intern did.

So this page of garbled facts tells you two things: apply for an internship you think you can get and that you can use to move up to something even better... and once you're in, don't forget to talk.

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