“Getting a foot in the door”: How internships provide job experiences for young people that pay off

Above: Some of our great interns at MEDA headquarters

Around the world, youth unemployment remains a lingering problem, with millions of young people unable to contribute their time and talent to the workforce. In the long term, this means trouble: without a sense of purpose and experience, young people will be locked out of the labor market. This can quickly lead to increased poverty, especially among already marginalized groups, and floundering economies.

Amidst these challenges, young people are adapting and striving to gain the experiences that will shape their future careers and our world. These include internships or short-term work opportunities. Internships have traditionally been a way for young people to get work experience and offer young people a variety of benefits, including developing solid work experience, honing skillsets, and building networks.

We talked to some talented interns who worked for MEDA during the last four months. Below is a glimpse into what motivated our interns to apply for work at MEDA, their experiences, and what they’ll take with them in their future careers.

Values

What motivates young people when looking for work? In a word, values. Where a company or organization stands on particular issues and how they treat their employees are increasingly seen as important drivers of what propels millennials and Gen Z to apply for work and stay at organizations.

Values are what drove Khola to apply for an internship at MEDA. As a fourth-year business student at Wilfrid Laurier University’s Lazaridis School of Business and Economics, she was looking for an opportunity to contribute her skills to social good.

“Large corporations can negatively contribute to social, political, or environmental issues, making it a priority to work somewhere that had morals that aligned with my own.”

– Khola

MEDA’s values mattered to Ryan too. A 4th year Science student at the University of Western Ontario, Ryan was drawn to what MEDA stands for.

“I thought that MEDA would be a good fit for me because I believe we share similar values. For example, we both believe in social entrepreneurship.”

– Ryan

Learning Opportunities

There are the skills you learn from a university, and then there are the skills you can learn from the workforce. Brooke discovered this at the onset of her internship. As a third-year university student in the Global Business and Digital Arts program, this internship provided her with an array of new skills that she hadn’t yet acquired.

“Working at MEDA has taught me the essentials of working in an office and corporate environment, as it is my first time in a role like this. From etiquette and communication with colleagues to working in a team and being delegated different tasks, the experience has been essential for my future career. I have also learned the basics of the non-profit sector, and the role MEDA specifically plays as an NGO.”

– Brooke

Brittany, a fourth-year Global Studies major, was also looking for a way to gain real-world experience before graduating.

“I have always been deeply interested in international development and was extremely excited to see an opportunity in this field. Another reason I applied was because I wanted to expand my understanding of the functions of NGOs, specifically those focused on international development.”

– Brittany

Kai, another intern with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering and a master’s degree in Environmental and Resource Management, cited the opportunity MEDA provided him to work in diverse areas.

“I was able to work on projects not only on an Environmental approach, but also looking into International Development and the business aspects of each project.”

– Kai

Exploring the job market

Looking for work can be daunting for many reasons, including the stress of not hearing back, rejection, and the repetitive nature of applying. And then there is the sheer number of options out there, which can be daunting too. Sophia understood this well. Majoring in Gender & Social Justice and Political Science, she was unsure which career path she wanted to take after graduating.

“I didn’t have a solidified idea of what path I wanted my career to take, however, I knew more schooling was in my future, either a master’s degree or law school. This internship opened my eyes up to the NGO world and all the career possibilities that lie within it.”

– Sophia

A positive working experience

Perhaps just as important as compensation, room for advancement, or the role itself, is workplace culture. Positive work culture plays an important role in driving organizational performance. It matters so much that fostering a positive organizational culture can bring many benefits, including greater profits, productivity, and wellbeing among employees. Despite the diversity of roles and responsibilities that each intern had, they all pointed out MEDA’s positive work culture. This positive sentiment was echoed by Tianyu, a master’s student in Quantitative Finance at the University of Waterloo.

Above: Some of MEDA interns having lunch with other MEDA staff members.

“I would highly recommend MEDA to other future interns because it is a great opportunity to improve yourself and work with all these awesome people, meanwhile you can also dedicate yourself in making a difference to fight against poverty and some of other global issues.”

– Tianyu

As our interns previously highlighted, the opportunity to do a job that gives you fulfillment and purpose is important and is something that MEDA strives to do in its work. Our interns all played an essential role in supporting MEDA’s mission and driving the change that will create decent work for half a million people in ten years. As outlined in its strategic plan, Towards an Equal World, by 2030, we’re trying to do exactly that: provide half a million people with the ability to create or sustain decent work that will lift themselves, their families, and communities out of poverty.

If you think you’d be a good fit for our team, please visit our careers section at MEDA and see how you can make a difference for people experiencing poverty.

To read more engaging content from MEDA, check out the Storehouse.

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  • MEDA is an international economic development organization that creates business solutions to poverty. We work in agri-food market systems, focusing primarily on women and youth in rural communities in the Global South. Our success is measured by income, improved processes, increased knowledge, and the creation of decent work.

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