For many students, the role of an intern is shrouded in mystery about what sort of duties the position actually entails. Often they can feel nervous about navigating a real-life workplace and managing expectations. Movies such as “The Internship” and “The Intern” would have us believe that this position is competitive, cutthroat, and a role to be feared. In reality, students can rest easy to find that this is not the case.

This semester I challenged myself to step out of my comfort zone and undertake a 13-week internship with The Lab Insight & Strategy in Brisbane. The Lab is a company that aims to make sense of the relationship between people, culture, and brands in order to devise a more accurate strategy for companies. As a student that has often felt a sense of imposter syndrome, this experience was extremely positive for me and revealed that an internship fosters collaboration and provides an encouraging environment to learn skills that you might not have learned in university. Unlike the movies, you’re not expected to know how to do everything.  

What I loved most about interning at The Lab was the focus on qualitative research, which delves deeper into the nuances that quantitative research just can’t pick up on. Within university, we’re taught how to conduct research for brands, but I always wondered how these techniques would translate into a real research project. What I found was that these techniques taught in university form an important basis, but learning to identify novel insights is a skill that is developed over time. This is what I saw from consultants at The Lab who were able to quickly develop strategies and identify insights due to their experience. 

I would highly recommend that young professionals that are struggling to decide on an industry undertake an internship so that they better understand the roles they are interested in. I also encourage students that suffer from a sense of imposter syndrome to also push out of their comfort zones and take an internship so that they can get used to an industry environment and build confidence earlier. Overall, the one thing these movies did get right, is that the skills and experiences you have as an intern will be invaluable to your future as a professional.