The intern’s guide


You’ve just graduated and you’re eager to get into the ‘real world’. You get the phone call you have been waiting for: you’re hired. But, instead of moving straight into your office – equipped with your own computer – you find yourself making coffee and filing papers. Internships aren’t always what we expect them to be. CEO at Hands on Treatment, Martina Laurie gives us the low down on internships.


Defining internship

An internship is when a company takes on a person (with or without qualifications) for a period of six months to train, mentor and prepare for full-time employment.

Purpose of internships

The purpose of internships is to prepare you for the formal workplace. Internships are a great way of acquiring skills and making contact with potential future employers. An internship will make it easier for you to find work and get off to a good start in your career. In many sectors, when you’re looking for a ‘real job’, employers prefer people who have had at least six months working experience.

False/high Expectations

Being an intern can mean doing anything like helping out with filing. If you’re lucky, some companies will actually give you the responsibilities you want. An intern’s job is to do a variety of jobs from the most basic (filing, answering the phone) to ensure they understand the full cycle of that particular business. But if you feel like you’re not learning what you wanted to learn, you do have the right to speak to your line manager about your expectations.

Minimum wage for interns

There is no minimum wage but typically it would be around R2000 – R3000 for certificate bearers and R6000 for graduates, but do bear in mind that some companies don’t pay interns.

Deirdre Elphick-Moore, co-founder of The Office Coach, a soft skills and personal development consultancy lists the responsibilities an intern:

The intern’s responsibilities

  • Acknowledge the opportunity and be grateful for it – unemployment in SA is about 25%. One in four of your university colleagues do not have work. You have an opportunity to start a career and make a living. This chance may not be repeated.
  • You are no longer a student. You need to dress, think and act like a professional. Evaluate your wardrobe, habits and attitudes and make the necessary adjustments
  • Make an effort to know the business you are in – read the company website/ promotional material, learn its vision, mission and values, find out who its key clients are and how it makes money. The more you know about the business, the more you can check whether it is compatible with your own ideals. It also allows you to tailor your performance and attitude to best serve the business.
  • Network as much as you can across different business units/ areas, as well as across levels of employees. If people know you and are impressed by what they see, then you stand a better chance of a permanent placement at the end of the internship.
  • Learn as much as you can, practice new skills, seek a mentor to guide and coach you.