I’ve been a teacher for a long time but I’ve also had a diverse career in business, so I know how essential it is for a student to combine study with work.
When my students do go out in pursuit of an internship, they are often hoping it will lead to a permanent, paid position. So, for business students and graduates embarking on a new career, the big question usually is; ‘how do you turn your internship into a paid role?’
Of course, this is sometimes out of your control. Companies may simply not be looking to hire their interns at the time you happen to be one. However, for many companies, internships are central to their hiring process and a proven pathway to work.
In fact, a recent study found that paid internships lead to official job offers about 65% of the time, whereas outside applicants are hired 37% of the time. In the case where your company does hire interns, you should consider your internship more like a trial period. Your boss is watching you to see how you perform and assess whether you’re going to be suitable for the job. You need to do everything you can to show them you’ve got what it takes.
One Torrens University Australia student who’s recently secured a paid role through his internship is Alvaro Andres Sanchez Rozo.
This 27-year old go-getter from Colombia is currently studying a Master of Professional Accounting in Adelaide. It’s a long way from his hometown, a small city called Cucuta.
“My parents are both teachers of math and physics in public secondary schools. We are a traditional family, and they have always supported me in this process of studying in Australia.
I love to feel productive so I am always listening to podcasts, reading books, playing soccer, studying, upskilling, networking and sometimes going out with friends when I get some free time. I love travelling, but because of the current situation [the coronavirus pandemic] I haven’t been able to do it.” – Alvaro Sanchez
Alvaro developed a keen interest in business and economics during high school, and this fascination lead him to a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Social Science in Colombia. Wanting to pursue his ambitions for a successful career further, he eventually made the decision to begin a master degree at TUA.
“I am passionate about encouraging people to achieve their goals and do what they love in life. Therefore, I am always pushing myself to become the person I dreamed I would be when I was a child. I keep dreaming that I can achieve my goals, just as everyone else can do.
I did some diplomas in accounting and I found it interesting to know the core of a company and how it works, so I started studying the MPPA last year.”
Luckily for Alvaro, Torrens University has an active internship program with work placement opportunities provided by many different partner organisations, through the universities extensive industry networks.
Soon after beginning his studies Alvaro volunteered to be a Student Representative, and was shortly contacted by Mustafa Kadir, Industry Consultant for Torrens University and Vice-President of the Association for Strategic Planning. Mustafa is a highly proactive member of our staff who provides tremendous support to students, and we’re glad to have him.
Noticing Alvaro’s exceptional performance as a Student Representative, Mustafa had recommended him for an internship to the head of a small accounting firm. The firm was interested.
“I was recommended by Torrens University Business Consultant, Mustafa Kadir, and I did actually meet my boss in a networking event a month before going to the interview.”
As part of the internship program at Torrens University, students are given a success coach and assistance with their interview preparation.
“Staff helped me to prepare for the interview and to correct my CV. The internship offer came across, and after the interview I got to start the internship immediately on Monday. I did the internship for three months, and then after I got offered the contract. ”
He makes it sound easy, but Alvaro’s journey from student to intern and then to his current role of Accounting Clerk and Tax Agent required a lot of hard work, and some long hours.
Here is how he did it.
'The role challenged me in my beliefs and my core values, but not in my determination to learn as much as I can, and get the job.
To achieve this goal, I followed advice from the book called ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Stephen R Covey:
- Be proactive and not reactive. I was actively looking for the tasks which would make me more proactive, and which would help my boss and make his job easier.
- Seek to understand and then to be understood. Therefore, I developed a strong relationship with my boss where I offered help, invited him for lunch, checked in on him, and would have small chats about different topics other than work.
- This is one of the most important – start with the end in mind. I was determined to give my 100%, have sleepless nights and early mornings, and learn as much as I could. At the end of the internship, I wanted to be able to say to myself that I gave all of my effort to this job, and then I would be satisfied, either way, if I got the job or not.
I wouldn’t say I didn’t think about quitting sometimes – but I remembered the quote ‘you can always quit, why do it now?"
The company where I work is small accounting boutique where it is just my boss and I. I think that he hired me because he saw someone who he can trust, someone proactive – as I do accounting, taxes, admin, marketing and now I am working in building the business relationships for the company.
Moreover, I think that he trained my mind to become self-sufficient, to work independently and become a high-level problem solver.
I developed skills such as problem solving, spreadsheets, management of accounting software and relationship building. I am currently growing the business as well as doing the marketing of the company – students need to be very proactive in these types of roles.
I would say that it (succeeding in the internship) has been 80% soft skills and 20% hard skills, as you will always learn to do the job if you are committed to doing it, and people will be open to teaching you if they see you have the burning desire.
I would also say to other students to always keep positive, keep networking, and having a mentor will be helpful – as this person will give you guidance and is committed to helping you achieve your goal. Having experience in an Australian workplace will give you the confidence you need to keep stepping up in your career.
Lastly, I was determined to not look at the clock but always leave when the work was done, because accounting means long hours.”
Alvaro will finish his Master of Professional Accounting by the end of 2020. He will continue to work in his role with the company during the rest of his studies, and after graduation. So far, he’s really happy with where he’s ended up – but that’s not the end of the road for this ambitious accountant.
“In my current job I am learning and being challenged every day, which is exciting, and I am enjoying my position in the company. I am working in a field where I love what I do (as an accountant and tax agent) and I am passionate about finance, so in the future maybe I will try corporate finance. We will see how everything goes.”
I wish you the best of luck, Alvaro, and have no doubt that you have a great career ahead of you.