I have never been able to sleep on planes. I always end up watching films I wouldn’t normally watch, on that small screen in the dim cabin. My return flight from Los Angeles LAX on a pre-gap year jaunt was no exception. I watched the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Die Hard and finally The Internship.
The latter, made in 2013, starring Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, tracks the duo’s progression through a Google internship programme. The film got me thinking about my upcoming year. I was finally unburdened by school and not yet shackled by university. What could I do to fill the months? I sent out a few emails asking about placements and, three months down the line, here I am sitting at a desk in the London Wall offices of Redleaf Communications.
Insight into varied sectors
PR has been the perfect way to learn: Redleaf have a range of clients across different industries and sectors, from fintech start-ups to insurers and even a production company. As a result, I have had the opportunity to interact with people who specialise across the sectors. They have each taught me a thing or two which, when put together, has left me with a more competent understanding of business and economics than when I started a few months ago.
That, I suppose, is the beauty of interning: you pick up useful knowledge and gain insight into the world of work, without having to make a long-term commitment.
Standing out from the crowd
Doing an internship is akin to being in a halfway house. You are given a fair amount of responsibility but your actions are overseen and guided, allowing space to learn. I, for one, only had a hazy idea of what I wanted to do; interning has helped me to clarify what I think I will enjoy.
My internship will help me in many other ways, including when I’m looking for a job. Internships suggest industry knowledge, potential contacts and an increased chance of professionalism. According to 2013 research, featured in the Telegraph, students are three times more likely to get a good job if they have taken internships.
Finally, there are the practical uses. I have spent many hours on the computer whether drafting documents or getting to grips with different bits of software; I know I am more tech-savvy than I used to be. In the first few months of permanent work, my little experience in a professional environment will make a marked difference and hopefully help me to hit the ground running.
For many, gap years are for trekking the Hindu Kush or finding yourself in the vast expanses of Patagonia – and there’s no problem with that! But I am glad I chose to work for the first half of mine. I have had rewarding experiences at Redleaf. And when I’m sat behind my own desk in a few years’ time, I know I will be grateful that I gave myself a little head start.