Like many students, I thought that a qualification was enough to get me a job – but I was wrong! In truth, work experience counts a lot for any first time worker, especially if you’ve just graduated. I learned this lesson while doing my internship with Fetola – my experience made me realise that most of what I learned at varsity had little value in the working environment!
Unlike varsity, where you sit in a classroom with a text book in front of you, whilst being lectured, followed by assignments, tests, exams ….. the work environment is all about practical delivery. In other words, you are expected to get your hands dirty, to do the real thing – If you studied journalism like me, you are expected to write and report stories.
I remember my first day as a media intern with Fetola, I didn’t know what to expect. Over the past years of my schooling, I had heard stories of interns who would sit around the whole day making coffee, answering calls or performing minimal tasks as part of their internship. I expected it to be the same with Fetola, and frankly I didn’t care; I just wanted to complete my internship so I could graduate.
However, this was a different case entirely. Upon my arrival, just minutes after settling on my desk with my new computer staring at me, my mentor came to me and asked that I write an article about one of the businesses that the company supported. At that very moment my mind started racing – how was I going to do this, have I ever written such a story before? I soon realised that all this doubt was sprouting because, for the first time ever, I was being asked to do what I had been studying for the last three years! Lucky for me, before I applied for the internship I had been volunteering at an online magazine and most of my work involved writing and reporting, so it was not entirely new to me – I had done it before, and I could do it again.
The next months that followed, I learned about the work environment, the manner in which things were handled, and how one should behave and carry themselves in the workplace. I had never learned any of that at varsity, this was all new to me – my internship was preparing me for the working world. And the best part was, not only were my writing and journalism skills improving, but I was also adapting to the culture of the media industry. I was finally getting an idea of what the day to day work of my career would be like – the tasks I would be expected to perform, the type of people I would be expected to speak with, and the manner I would go about doing that.
I now firmly believe that internships are a proven way to gaining relevant knowledge, skills, and experience while establishing important connections in the field. That being said, I’m now of the opinion that any formal training should contain an element of experiential learning. Fetola’s Internship Program was definitely a positive start to my professional career- I learned more in just six months than my entire time I spent studying, and the best part of it was that I was hired permanently when my internship was up!
Abram Molelemane is a journalism graduate at the Tshwane University of Technology. In 2011 he was nominated for the Record print journalist of the year award. He is currently employed as the media officer and partnership developer at Fetola, which seeks to place24, 000 SA graduates into internships in Small and Medium sized business across South Africa, through its programme called GAP (www.gogap.co.za)