Should I do an internship or a board year?

Many students believe that the gap between work and study is pretty big. The responsibility increases sharply when you start working and it is expected of you that you put certain qualities into practice. Think about organising, planning, communicative skills and leadership skills. There are a couple of ways in which you can close this gap. Most students do this through an internship and others through a board year. This post lines out how a board year and an internship differ and why a board year can be of a lot of value to you.

1: Develop your leadership skills and your sense of responsibility

During a board year you will make decisions that affect an entire association. You will be the face of the association and you will have a lot of responsibilities as the long-term wellbeing and growth of the organisation are influenced by your decisions. The responsibilities that you will carry during a board year will be much larger than any you will receive during most internships. To become a board member at the EBF basically means that you will be the manager of 180 employees in a company that serves 4,500 customers. Leading one of the Netherlands largest study associations will challenge you to think critically and show the ability to make decisions under pressure.

During an internship, you will have no to little final responsibility and probably won’t be in charge of a team. However, you will get a lot of professional guidance in a legitimate business environment. You will learn what it’s really like to work in a business of your interest. During a board year, you will also work in a professional environment where you will be in touch with many companies and you will have to align various stakeholders. You have to develop serious communication and negotiation skills to get things done. Depending on your board position, you will have a certain number of committees to guide. This includes giving feedback, having personal development meetings, learning about project management and leadership. You will find out what your leadership style is and how you can improve team dynamics. So at your internship, you will develop more practical skills for your entry level job, while as a board member you will develop leadership skills and a great sense of responsibility.

2: Build a large network

During a board year you will get to know a lot of new people. Besides being really close with your fellow board members, you will also get to know a lot of people that are current members, old board members or other alumni. You might even talk to the biggest CEOs like Tineke Bakker – Van der Veen (Managing Director of Boeing Benelux and Nordics), Klaas Knot (President of De Nederlandsche Bank) or Ernst-Jan Stigter (CEO Microsoft NL). Besides these extraordinary opportunities, you will meet many recruiters and employees from different companies. You will see different companies through cases, presentations and company visits. This will surely help you to figure out what you want to obtain in your future career and what industry fits you best. The difference with an internship is that during your internship you will get more in depth insight into a specific industry, while during a board year you can broaden your scope and gain a big and diverse professional network.

3: Work intensively in a team

Most of the work that you do as a board is in collaboration with your other board members. You need to align a lot of decisions together. At an internship, you are mostly supporting a team and have less control about the decisions being made. Often, you are assigned to a group of other interns and become part of an operational team. Although you work with such a team on a daily basis, it will never be as intensive as a board. Because of all the time you spend together as a board, you become very close and your relationship grows into more than just a professional relationship. You will go on parent weekends, have board evenings and go on holidays together. So, as an intern you will work in a team, however, it will never be as intensively as during a board year.

4: Have a lot of fun!

Besides all the hard work and long days, a really important part of doing a board year is having a lot of fun. You will work closely together with your fellow board members, with whom you will become a really close group of friends. A board year is the perfect combination between being a student and gaining a lot of work experience. The big difference with an internship is that besides the work you have to do during the day you will also have a lot of activities and events you have to attend in the evening. At these activities you can relax and interact with your fellow board members and other EBF members and associations outside of work. It is the perfect opportunity to enjoy student life whilst gaining extremely valuable skills.


Luuk Platvoet & Laurien Meijer