We spoke to Jessica Browne, a former intern from Kingston University Careers and Employability Centre and SAP, who was keen to tell us all about what she learnt while undertaking two different Human Resources internships. Jessica was coming to the end of her placement year at SAP and returning to her final year of study after gaining bags of HR experience.
Tell us a little about your internships, what were the main tasks you were trusted with?
JB: My first internship was at Kingston Universities Careers and Employability Centre where I was a HR Intern. I was interning there for three months. I was responsible for the recruitment database. This was providing students with relevant jobs when they came in and if a recruiter wanted to see some CVs from our students I would collate some and also do a pre-screen for them too. This was to make sure they were suitable for the role and they were good students to send through to recruiters. In terms of recruiters, I was working with Debenhams, FDM, Capgemini, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, just to name a few.
I'm currently on my placement year at SAP. My role at SAP is as a Recruitment Associate and I will complete my placement year in August. At SAP, I recruit in-house for UK and Ireland Sales roles. It is very different because before I was working with external companies who would approach us and I would help recruit for them. This would be when new roles would come about, for example I would recruit SAP Account Managers. This would require me to source candidates from LinkedIn right through to the contract at the end.
What was the most beneficial thing you took away with you?
JB: If it wasn't for my internship in HR at Kingston, I wouldn't be here at SAP because when I had a telephone interview I spoke a lot about my internship. Luckily at Kingston Careers Service I got on well with my manager and delivered on all my deliverables and was kept on throughout my second year. They extend the contract and allowed me to develop lots of HR skills like confidence, presentations skills, networking skills and I gained a lot of worthwhile contacts through this.
It has come in useful, for example with Enterprise Rent-A-Car we do a lot of the back end work, we'll do the CV screen, the pre-screen and Enterprise Rent-A-Car will come to our campus and interview students. If it was a non-Kingston student, they would have to go through the whole application process without our help.
What was the biggest difficulty you faced during your two internships?
JB: The main project I was working on was hiring the new interns for next year. I had to upload all the job descriptions onto our system, make sure they were live on our careers sites. I had to then filter through around 600 applications, making sure they were eligible to apply and then put them forward for a telephone interview, assessment centres and right through to contracts.
The scale was certainly the biggest difficulty I faced because the projects I got involved in were so big, I often ended up staying in the office until 8pm because of the volume of applications and all this was my responsibility.
At Kingston, the biggest difficulty I faced was ensuring that employers were happy with what we were providing them with.
Did you feel like a valued member of the team?
JB: Yes, 100% in both the HR internship and my placement year at SAP. One of the ways they helped me fit in was each intern was assigned a buddy within the team, so I was assigned a buddy in the Recruitment team and we did everything together. This was including nights out with the team, if they were meeting the MDs of the company they'd invite us along as if we were full time members of team.
Do you feel like you gained career long skills from your internship?
JB: Without having this work experience on my CV, I wouldn't be as far in my career as I am now. When I had my interview with SAP they were really intrigued about my work during the HR internship at Kingston because it is so different.
What advice would you give a student/graduate looking for a Human Resources internship?
JB: Be persistent, if you do get rejected don't let this get you down just keep trying. Also, don't always target the bigger firms, target little firms too because sometimes at smaller firms you might be the only intern in that company and you will get more responsibility and learn more.
What advice would you give a student/graduate currently undertaking a Human Resources internship?
JB: Build up your network, try and grow your list of contacts while you're there. Even if you're going for coffee and bump into someone they know, make sure you introduce yourself and find out as much as you can about them. Also, always get involved in anything you can. Unless you absolutely can't then try and volunteer and get involved in everything you can. The more you volunteer yourself and the more you put yourself forward for things, the employer will remember with you and with things like LinkedIn you never know what might happen in the future.
In your view, how important are Internships?
JB: In general, I would say internships are vitally important, because working in recruitment we want to see experience on your CV. Without experience your CV does not stand out from everyone else's. Yes you've got a degree, but you need work experience to back that up. Ideally it is in the field you want to get into, but if it is not you've still got something to talk about in interviews.
In relation to HR, it is very important. During an internship you learn the basics of what HR does. You can use transferable skills and allows you to develop yourself for a career in HR. At Kingston we emphasised doing internships, because it might do the opposite of gear you towards a career. You might undertake an internship in say Marketing and realise that it's not for you. You need to understand the ins and outs of an industry before you commit yourself onto a graduate scheme when you're then tied in for two years.