By Dr. Veena Jadhav
The essence of any global management program can be summed up by the diversity of exposure and learning experiences offered to students. Most leading global management education institutes strive to achieve this diversity through various design elements such as global campuses, global faculties and regional immersion programs and projects. While essential, these cannot possibly replace the value of a transformative global internship opportunity in student’s learning and career journey.
Internship, by design, served as stepping stone for students to transition from academic learning phase into the corporate or real-world phase. Built on strong foundations of social learning theory, internships are vehicles for personal and professional learning by immersion in actual workplace environment. These provide risk-free learning environment for interns who are supervised and co-mentored by experienced professionals. It is proven means for young or experienced learners to integrate their conceptual and theoretical learnings with the practices in the real workplaces. Internship has served as a ‘golden bridge’ that enables students to acquire and refine personal skills and competencies in demand and sought by employers. This bridge also connects and embeds students within a professional community and enhances their professional network.
Traditionally, internships were viewed as a ‘optional’ learning opportunity, mainly popular with undergraduate students aspiring to gain practical experience in their chosen fields. Historically, interns were also projected as additional resources to be engaged in non-value adding activities or hired as a ‘good will’ gesture! However, with the evolving talent landscape, many employers are now exploring internships as a means to engage and expand their talent pipeline and to address critical skills gap within their firms. Equally, majority of students entering any reputed global management program are seeking exposure to global workplaces through well-crafted internships. This surge in demand from employers and students has further reinforced internship as a strategic learning experience within global management programs.
Growth in internship opportunities has also led to a shift in mindset towards interns and internships. One can see several changes in the nature, types and formats of internships. Over the past few years, internships have evolved significantly owing to the dramatic transformation in the nature of work, workplaces, workforces. Needless to say, the COVID-19 pandemic has also accelerated the adoption of new ways in interning!
Within a global management course, an internship program is crafted to balance expectations of three key stakeholders: students, potential employers and management institute. Students, by far, remain the main beneficiaries of a well-crafted global internship program, as it allows them to gain meaningful workplace experiences, usually in a novel cultural or industry setting. These tangible and intangible benefits cut across a range of personal and professional domains and play an important role in shaping future career success and professional growth trajectories for students.
Vision for personal growth: Internships provide excellent avenues for B-School graduates to explore and experiment with different career opportunities across different geographies, industries and markets. These wide-ranging experiences help graduates in developing their vision for personal growth, thus shaping and guiding their future journey.
Variety of learning experiences: B-School interns can potentially gain host of different learning experiences via the internship route. Most progressive organisations offer internships that are designed to offer strategic exposure to interns for instance rotation across key functional areas, strategic projects or exposure to key customers. A variety of learning experiences shape interns as adaptable professionals.
Venture out of comfort zone: Global internship opportunities force students to challenge their assumptions and re-examine their long-held worldviews. Such exposure forces students to step out of their comfort zone and learn to be comfortable in unfamiliar situations and novel cultural settings. This opportunity for exploration and self-discovery is a significant intangible benefit of internships.
Virtual / blended experiences: The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a new paradigm of work. The future of work requires graduates to be familiar with emerging technological disruptions. Internships gives an opportunity to students to experience first-hand the impact of technologies such as AI, ML and other digital and social technologies at workplace. Another major corporate trend is a shift towards remote and blended work. Remote or virtual internships provide an opportunity to students to gain appropriate skills to be effective in virtual and remote workplaces, thus making them valuable future team members.
Visibility and mobility: Most participants of global management program aspire for international exposure and international careers, and internships are a proven medium for both fresh graduates and experienced mid-career professionals to expand their geographical career footprint. High stake project opportunities create visibility for interns amongst key decision makers and business leaders and enhance career mobility opportunities.
Value of employability: Rapidly changing business environment calls for B-school graduates to acquire and hone a wide range of professional skills. Internships set the stage for graduates to refine and demonstrate professional skills in demand, thereby enhancing their employability.
The other two stakeholders – employers and management institutes also derive significant value from global internship programs. Most reputed firms view global management program graduates as key talents and prioritise their attraction and retention. A well-crafted global internship program serves both tactical and strategic purpose for employers. Attracting highly motivated and professionally ready talent pool as interns allows firms to address talent shortages and talent pipeline issues, while simultaneously providing an opportunity to assess an intern’s job and culture fit at a very competitive remuneration. Some employers seek to fulfil strategic goals through their internship programs, such as building a formidable employer brand, reputation as a talent magnet or to create a culture of innovation by attracting talent with fresh perspective.
For B-Schools, global internship programs enhance the value of academic learning through practical immersion and global learning opportunities for graduates. It also helps to nurture an ecosystem of industry-academia partnership that is essential to guide curriculum development that ensures future-ready graduates, equipped with relevant skills and competencies aligned with the evolving workplace. Internships will continue to be pivotal to success of a global management program in times to come.
(The author is Associate Dean (MGB), Associate Prof. (Leadership & HRM), SP Jain School of Global Management. Views expressed are personal and not necessarily those of Financial Express Online.)