Making the most of your internship

17/05/2018

Although an internship may lead to a career, the most crucial element is learning. 

INVALUABLE INTERNSHIP: Verna Botha-Richards, MRP Foundation Director, Khadjia Dada (1st place / Cutting Edge Award) and Thandeka Nala, MRP Foundation’s Head of Programmes, at the 2017 Professional Retail Programme Graduation.

In a world riddled with uncertainty, it can be rather daunting being a university graduate without prospective employment. A turbulent economy and a high graduate rate often compound this problem, which can lead to a sense of hopelessness and panic amongst young adults. According to Statistics South Africa there were over 3.3 million unemployed young South Africans in 2017 between the ages of 15 and 24, of which 7.3% were graduates.

A feasible solution, which often allows graduates to smoothly transition from tertiary institutions to industry, are internship programmes. These give graduates the opportunity to be hands-on and practice what they have learnt in their field of study. They're usually mutually beneficial: on the one hand, they allow companies to assess the suitability of interns to their specific requirements while on the other, allow interns to gauge whether they are comfortable with the roles and responsibilities of their potential job.

Internships also play an integral role in career development. Similar to the concept of apprenticeships in the trade guilds, which existed since the 11th century and occurred through crafts and tradesmen taking young learners under their wings, internships allow students and graduates a glimpse into a potential career path.

Internships are also invaluable to young graduates as they provide insight into the various possible careers qualifications can lead to. They also highlight career passions prior to entering the workforce and help interns discover dislikes about a potential career choice. For interns, merging attitude and passion often leads to a successful career, and not just a job, as flourishing companies hire for attitude and train for skill. Self-efficacy, or the belief in oneself and their ability, is vital in proving worth to an employer. During an internship, an intern needs to prove their value to an employer through initiative, commitment and sheer hard work.

“An internship may help you discover whether you fit into the culture of a work organisation. It allows you to experience the work ethic of that company and to see if you are comfortable in that environment,” said Thandeka Nala, Head of the MRP Foundation’s Jump Start programme. Jump Start is a work readiness programme that develops the skills of unemployed youth and links them to career opportunities in the retail sector and the supply chain.

According to Nala, an internship allows employers to assess potential employees in areas such as work performance, attitude and resilience. “Not only do employers have the opportunity to assess the attitude of a potential employee, but also their perception and ability to deal with realistic situations,” she highlighted.

Although an internship may lead to a career, the most crucial element is learning; learning about the job, what one likes or dislikes, as well as highlighting which skills are lacking or need specialising in.

For Durbanite Khadija Dada, who graduated at the top of the MRP Foundation’s 2017 Professional Retail Programme, “The programme was really valuable as I had to opportunity to view things from multiple perspectives; from head office, to retail stores and manufacturers. It was a huge learning curve as I gained a deeper understanding of the various role players in the industry.” Dada who has a B.Com (Marketing) degree, is now employed as a Buyer’s Assistant at a leading Durban-based retailer.

Are you a graduate looking for an opportunity to advance from tertiary education into the working world within the dynamic sphere of retail? MRP Foundation’s Professional Retail Programme exposes young graduates to the fast-paced retail industry, equipping them to become skilled traders and merchants of the future who can succeed in the ever-evolving world of retail. The ten-month internship introduces graduates to the universal principles of retail and its value chain for retail careers in planning, buying and store operations.

The innovative internship is delivered through a unique cloud-based learning platform and a combination of classroom, self-study and group project work, along with six months of hands-on work experience in select retail environments.

If you believe you have the essential qualities required of a Professional Retailer — a positive attitude, strong resilience and boundless passion for retail — then apply for the Professional Retail Programme here.

The internship takes place in Durban starting on 1 August 2018 and spaces are extremely limited. B Com, Retail Studies and Business Management graduates or final year students can apply by midnight May 31, 2018. Modules include Introduction to the World of Retail, The Retail Business System, Product and Pipeline, The Merchandise Cycle and Achieving Results, Trading for Merchants, and Trading for Retailers.

Words: Farzanah Asmal