I feel I should begin by saying that the writing of this article is going to be a cathartic process for me. Hopefully, as readers, you will get something out of it, but my motivations for writing it are selfish. I need to express, on paper, how I feel and what I know, or do not know, about internships, before I have a breakdown.
‘Internship’ sounds stressful; it doesn’t sound like something you would want to apply for, does it? Nevertheless, an internship is a great way to get work experience while you study. There is one thing that I am sure has been conveyed to you innumerable times by lecturers before now; that is, that the one thing future employers really like to see is a candidate who has a good balance of academic and practical skills to bring to the workplace. We’ve got the academic, but the practical can be hard to come by. Internships are much like the placements you got in high school; you’re still bottom of the rung, but you actually do the work this time. Sounds perfect.
For the past month, I have been searching for an appropriate internship during summer, but I’m panicking that I’ll never get a job after I graduate. I’m a classic ‘thinker’ but don’t have a reputation for being a ‘doer’, which I’m trying to rectify. When more work experience opportunities came flooding through the Careers Centre, I thought I’d see what they had to offer.
It turns out that simply ‘finding something that takes your fancy’ is a very rosy outlook when looking to get an internship. I found that I wasn’t sure what I was looking for anymore. My vague idea became an existential crisis. How long should my internship be? What tasks are best suited to me? Where should I go to do it? How should I present my application? Am I qualified enough to do one? What do I want it to lead to?
So, what now? I thought I’d make a list to identify some of the things you should consider in your search for work experience:
1) Driving. Having a car is probably the biggest blessing for an intern. Location and travel issues are less of a problem when you have one. So, remember: if you don’t drive, think about the location carefully. London is probably not an issue, thanks to the Tube, but anywhere that is based a considerable distance from home needs to be mulled over. If you go further afield, make sure that you sort out necessary accommodation and extra costs (you will most likely be paid expenses) well in advance. Also, check where you will be stationed for your placement. If you aren’t based solely in an office, make sure that you are able to get from place to place.
2) Can you honestly fit it all in? We all lead different lives with different priorities, and sometimes an internship isn’t one of them. Maybe you have a part time job that you don’t want to risk losing, or commitments to a sport or hobby, or family that need you around. Volunteering and one-off skills days are ways to get around this. Another popular option is to take a year out; this will allow you time to figure out what work experience you need without worrying about university. One thing I have considered, instead of getting an internship, is writing more blogs as a way of building up a portfolio.
3) Money. Do you want to be paid for your time, or can you forfeit that luxury? This is definitely a factor to consider if you will be living away from home to complete the internship, or if you are considering a longer placement.
4) Application processes. If you’re required to do tests, such as verbal reasoning and maths, and your degree is in English Literature, you might want to brush the dust off your GCSE textbooks. The CV and the covering letter have to be perfectly formatted and tailored for your positions. Don’t expect to create a one-off, one-size-fits-all version of either, because that’s impossible. Every company has a different vision. Some will love a colour scheme, some will not. Some will prefer bullet points that get down to business, and some want fancy prose. Some will love a gimmicky presentation or artistic creation in place of two sheets of paper, but some will not be impressed. Research your company to find out what they want because they are deliberately scant on details in the job descriptions for a reason.
If you are considering an internship and need more information on where to start, the lovely Careers Centre is open for business. They are keen for people to go to them for advice and help, and why wouldn’t you? Entering the ‘real world’ is a big deal, so anyone that can help you with the process is worth consulting. Good luck on your searches!