14 May 2015 16:52 IST

Can an internship be like a real job?

Not really, as you move from being told what to do to taking key decisions

It is that time of year when countless enthusiastic students apply for internships in an effort to strengthen their resumés and make use of their break . An internship is a great way to help university students be productive and give them skills a classroom cannot. However, while interns may think of themselves as a being temporary full-time employees, this feeling is probably misguided.

Sudarsan Ramamurthy is a full-time storyteller, writer, and content developer based in Chennai. A recent graduate in business administration, he currently works at a company called MultiStory Learning. During his studies, he completed a few internships in order to embellish his resumé and pick up skills his curriculum did not provide him. After nearly a year of contractually bound employment, he has a very different story to tell.

Change in outlook

“As an intern, you don't really know what your job description is. It could be making coffee for everyone in the office, or tagging along for meetings. You’re basically an extension of an office boy. And the only way you learn something is by asking questions and observing. ‘If I'm not doing this, I'd be wasting time, so I guess it's worth it’ is the kind of attitude most interns initially have, and we can't blame them either,” he says.

“But as an employee, you automatically inherit responsibilities and have a clear idea of what exactly you're supposed to do, and simply because your pay depends on it,” Ramamurthy adds.

“You do not have the comfort of knowing exactly how long will you work at this place, as opposed to being an intern. Your primary incentive for getting as much experience as possible becomes getting to a better place than the current job you're in.”

Ideal transition

Some people, on the other hand, feel that starting out as an intern and then graduating onto a full-time position is an ideal transition.

Taniya D’silva currently works as the business development manager of Delhi-based start-up Bold Kiln, after starting out as an intern there.

“It’s like moving from the cradle to the desk. The learning curve is steep. You move from being told what to do, to having to make decisions. You start by proving your merit, and end up working towards keeping it,” she says.

“You first work under someone, and then work with them. It's a lot to learn. But if you're ready, it's also a good ride. It depends on whether you go at it with heavy and uncomfortable wooden shoes or with roller skates. It's one hell of a ride,” D’silva adds.

Compulsory internships

In the case of postgraduate programmes, especially MBAs, internships serve a very different purpose. Surabhi Raju is currently working towards an MBA at Lal Bahadur Shastri Institute of Management, Delhi, which includes a compulsory internship. “Before this, I had a nearly two-year long stint in a full-time job in marketing,” she says.

“At a job you’re constantly monitored, while in internships, it isn’t the case. Additionally, for MBAs, internships are treated as research projects more than anything else. Decisions made during them can’t be implemented,” she adds.