Securing a paid internship or work placement is a great way to gain relevant work experience and skills to boost your personal development and your CV. Internships provide graduates with insight into potential industries or careers while also helping them build skills that will be useful when it comes to applying for jobs.
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Internships can be vital in getting that first graduate job. Often seen as a key way to gain real work experience, internships and work placements can be especially helpful for those who have not studied directly vocational degrees, such as History, English or Politics. Students should be aware that the word internship can be an umbrella term. The different sorts of internship can include a host of differing responsibilities, roles and can offer the successful candidate a wealth of experience, skills and inside knowledge.
An Internship is work undertaken at a company with the intention of learning and gaining experience in a company or industry. Successful candidates get the opportunity to work alongside and learn from industry professionals. Internships offer the chance to pick up skills and develop talent that undergraduates could apply in the working world. They can be an opportunity to get a feel of an industry or sector and see if they would like to undertake a career there.
There are different types of internships or work experience such as 'work shadowing'. With this programme a successful candidate will be assigned to one member of a team and follow them throughout their day to day routine. The benefit of this is to allow students to learn from some top industry professionals. Vacation schemes are held by some of the larger Legal, Financial or Accountancy firms which act as training programmes and also a way for firms to assess candidates for future roles within the company. The schemes also give candidates the opportunity to see if the company is right for them or not. Work Placements are another form of internship, but students are likely to have undertaken one as part of their degree. See here for more information on Work Placements.
The length of internships varies from place to place. Some of the larger companies who offer vacation schemes are usually a fixed length of time over a number of weeks or months. Some of the small companies such as Fashion Houses or Marketing agencies might offer shorter internships, because they are looking for assistance on a specific project or range. An opportunity like work shadowing might only last up to two weeks owing to the type of role that is being shadowed. Sometimes, as there is no contractual agreement or long term commitment, interns are available to negotiate their working time and length to suit them.
Internships are arguably one of the best things to have on a graduate CV. With the current competition for jobs being so intense, if a graduate can prove to employers that they will not need much training and that they are keen and have a passion for the job, employers will certainly consider that candidate for the role. Internships have many different benefits for undergraduates as well as for employers.
Employers highly rate internships, with over half of employers surveyed by High Fliers stating they were not at all likely or not very likely to employ somebody without experience. Employers added that irrespective of academic credentials they were unlikely to take a candidate on without experience. The popularity of internships shows a marketed response for the need for a try-before-you-buy approach to candidates, with 11,300 on offer, an increase of 5% on the previous year.
Experiences and skills are priceless in the job market. If a candidate has evidence of already being able to do the job, employers will be impressed. The enthusiasm and passion shown by undertaking an internship is important and can give candidates a real edge when applying. It is one thing having a qualification in something, however if a graduate is able to demonstrate they've done something in the real life work place, it will put them in better stead. It was estimated that 36% of those being employed in that year already had experience with that employer.
Contacts and Networking are vital in certain industries. Internships in Marketing or Media are excellent ways to build up a collection of contacts and build their networks, in case they need tapping up further down the line. Making contacts and networking is making sure they remember an intern's name and will be first to come to mind when an opportunity arises. Students should be aware that they never know where networking will lead them and who the other person knows. Rarely, but Investment Banking and other City firms, they offer 2300 internships, which outstrips the amount of permanent graduate jobs available. However in other sectors like Accounting, Professional Service and Consulting internships are harder to come by, making entry into these sectors more competitive.
Career progression is something that internships can really help with. Sometimes, but not always, interns can be offered full time employment after their internship. Other elements of career progression that are helped by internships are easing the transition between the lecture hall and the full time workplace. Having been able to navigate your way through modules and courses at university is different to having set hours in an office or workplace. An internship would certainly allow a candidate the skills to see what office etiquette and know what is expected of them.
Source: High Fliers Report 2013
The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development recommends companies offer these internships like they would any other full time job. Many do recruit interns like this. However, there is something to be said for building on current contacts and sending off speculative emails enquiring if employers would need any help or if there were opportunities available at their institution.
Making your communication clear and concise is a brilliant way to start. Many of the people that graduate would be contacting or gain the attention of will be busy people, they are not likely to read through a page long sob story about how the applicant might be the best person. If students are providing any support to these applications, such as a portfolio or links to online articles, they should make sure these are also flawless and concise. Employers do not want to see the all designs that the applicant has ever done, but a brief collection of their best work; also letting them know there is more upon request. Students need to hit them with their best shot first time round to stand a chance at gaining one of these internships, beating round the bush will bore the recipient and only get them ignored.
Qualifications are important but passion needs to be the real selling point. Candidates will be going up against other candidates that might have similar or better qualifications, degrees or studying more relevant courses, but candidates need to provide some solid evidence that they live and breathe what the company does. It is important that a candidate can demonstrate the necessary basic skills, such as solid communication, team work and organisation.
Work Placements are often woven into degrees or sandwich degrees. These tend to last around 6 to 12 months in a relevant company. These tend to be in fields like Engineering, Science, Architecture, Design or more vocational degrees like Music Technology. Work Placements are designed for students to get a taste for working life in their chosen profession and help add to a more well-rounded education whilst at university. Help with work placements can often be found at university where they are keen to help students make the most of their sabbatical from their studies.
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