Dos and Don’ts of Doing Business with Ghanaian Companies: PART 2
July 24, 2019
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It pays to be an Intern

Internships programs are designed to help students gain some work experience and get hired after graduations these days. It does expose students to the organization and offers them the opportunity to gain valuable applied experience. It is for this reasons that I strongly recommend students should aim to have at least two different internships or similar career prep-experiences during their time in the university/college year. To achieve this takes a lot of planning, especially if they want to land a good paid job.

It is for this reason that I am dedicating this article to Felix Manford who was part of my team as the Marketing and Research Officer until last month when he resigned his position to start a new adventure with Goldman Sachs in the UK. The payoff for him working with my team was worth the effort as it prepared him for this new job role in the UK just after he completed University of Ghana, Legon in May 2018. Over two decades of my career I have managed more than ten interns and Felix clearly stands out. 

I first met Felix Manford during my previous work life at a diplomatic mission in Accra, where he joined the team for a three months summer internship program as the Trade Assistant Intern (I was then his Line Manager). The very first day I interacted with Felix I knew he will go places as he was very humble, intelligent and had an open mind to learn. Years after his experience at this diplomatic mission, he heard that I had started my private consultancy firm, an opportunity for him to harness his skills and learn new practical abilities. He approached me to give him a position in the company without a salary (a good attitude towards money) so he can gain some more experiences for his career growth. I gladly offered him a position but I insisted on giving him a monthly allowance for his time which he reluctantly accepted.

During his work life with my team, he got the opportunity to apply for the 2018 Goldman Sachs Summer Internship Program in the UK. I encouraged him to apply and gave him full support for him to meet the selection criteria. Felix was among seven students selected from Ghana this year and he travelled to London in April 2018 for his two weeks internship which was very successful. Couple of weeks after his return to Ghana he got called back with an offer to return to Goldman Sachs to work with them as Equity Research Analyst Intern. Although I was sad to see him go, I was so proud of his achievements and delighted to have played a role in his success thus far. My question to you then is, have you as a Parent/Organization considered signing up your child or students for an internship program? If not why don’t you consider introducing an internship program in your school or organization today?

I recently, read a piece of research work conducted by the university of Ghana which found that and I quote “63% of university graduates who had completed a paid internship received a job offer within six months of graduation, compared to the 37% in an unpaid internship and 35% of those who did not have one at all. What’s more, graduates who completed a paid internship earn a higher starting salary. Whiles summer may seem far off, most internship application come due long before then, and many require lead time for students to write essay and collect recommendation letters’ etc.”

Here is a guide to all students to help them find and get the most out of an internship program. Please therefore share it with your undergrad child/student for a good summer break:

Make an Action Plan

Prepare a good CV

Most brilliant students have their internship applications ignored because of terrible CVs. Please invest time to write a winning CV. Get expert advice on how to put together a good CV, internet search and if you must pay to get it right go for it. A little investment into getting this right will open many career doors for you in the future.

Do an online search for offers

There are a number of useful search platforms for internships that you can explore. Some HR Managers may be able to advice on some openings within their organizations. You may also check the site for professional association for industry specific opportunities.

A must for you to target a specific company or industry

You should start by making a list of companies or the type of careers you are interested in. Think about the skills you want to develop or the network you want to build for your future career. If you do not know where to begin, your school Career Counselor should be able to help. 

Sign up to attend seminars/workshops that are relevant to students

Try to identify and attend free seminars or workshop in your field of interest. You can get details in newspapers, magazines and other journals. I encourage you to attend seminars and workshops even if it comes with a cost. It also provides a good platform to learn new skills, knowledge in some specific industries as well as ideas of setting up your own business etc.

Use your student/school network

Ask your student friends or lectures in your academic department which internship they consider most useful. If your college/university does not have a formal program to connect working alumni and students, why not try the use of LinkedIn to reach out to graduates who work in areas you are interested in – they may be able to point you in the right directions.

Approach people near your home or community 

You may be able to find internships right in your neighborhood or local church/community where there are lots of professionals that can offer some sort of support. The answer to your request may just be very close to you and if you don’t ask people near you they won’t know your interests.

Make your application early and often

Filing 5 to 10 application for summer internships is a reasonable target for your career and professional development. The majority of companies accept application for summer start of the year though some of the employers, particularly financial services, start recruiting towards the end of the year. Smaller companies usually take applications right up to the end of the school year or may consider you anytime they get approached.

Make every step of the experience count

What students do during their internship program can be more important than where they do it, it is all about the skills that you will gain at the end. Do not get caught up in applying to prestigious companies, your focus should instead be on where you will get the most responsibility and hand on experience. I recommend you ask all the questions about the type of assignments you can expect during the internship period. For example will you get the chance to work in teams? Will you sit in on company meetings? Whom will you report to and what are his or her responsibilities in guiding you? Will you get the chance to work on a project?

Once you are there, be open to a variety of task, and make sure to take notes in a book on the assignments you receive, how you completed the task. Interns, most of the time, have great ideas but always fail to listen carefully to instructions on what to do next. Ultimately, student should be able to talk to future internship and job recruiters about what they achieved for the company or how they helped project succeed before they end the program. Feedbacks are always a key ingredient to developing yourself and so ask for it.

Be prepared to weigh the cost

Some interns get paid, but the odds of getting one of these varies significantly by company to company. The labor regulations in Ghana I think, encourages unpaid interns as the aim is for them to earn an academic credit for the experience. Companies may however decide if they want to offer some allowance for transportation as travelling to work can be costly to some interns that leave far away.

Hopefully, these guide will help you on your way to signing up for that internship program. Do get professional advice on steps you can take, chances are that you may land a good offer that can turn your future career plans around.

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