Every year around this time, thousands of final year students across universities are preparing to hand in their dissertations and take their final exams. What happens next? The majority of people will try and brush off answering that question, they’ll pretend they really don’t care and don’t want to think about it whilst frantically racking their brains for anything that might one day resemble a career. The main thing that a lot of these graduates will have in common, particularly those coming out of uni with arts degrees, is that they will be expected to have an almost ridiculous amount of work experience under their belts before they even consider applying for a full time position.
Internships are the subject of much debate, is it right to exploit young people often for less than minimum wage? Of course, the struggling economy is a huge factor in how businesses are functioning these days. Companies are desperately staying above water, using interns as their worker bees. Keen, intelligent and desperate for recognition, your average intern works just as hard as your paid staff yet get none of the pay off. The trouble is, we’re all in that position. So, what is the best way to get through the bankruptcy of internships and come out the other side with a job in the area you want?
1. Start early. This is absolutely the best thing to do. Companies are even more likely to look at you if you are still in education as they know you won’t be begging to hang around. Use your summer holidays for long internships and try and nab any week or fortnight work experiences whenever you can. Yes, it’s hard work, you get basically no money for it but eventually it will be worth it. The BBC offer some great short term work experience opportunities for people, and almost every large company offers internships, normally ranging from 3 to 6 months.
2. Apply everywhere. Sounds obvious I know, but just because you don’t see an internship opportunity posted on a website like Universal Music or Sky News do, doesn’t mean they don’t want you. If you are particularly interested in an area of business, find all companies dealing with that, write a mind blowing covering letter and send it in to their general inquiries email. Generally companies will get back to you, even if letting you down, but then at least they have your details and know your skill set.
3. Be keen. Nobody takes any notice of the intern that swans in half an hour after everyone else and swans out as soon as they can. Of course, people won’t begrudge you that behaviour, they know you’re not being well paid, but you want them to think you’re stunning, the best intern ever. If you finish your work, offer to help on other tasks, show initiative and try and gel well with your co-workers. Eventually, that knowledge will trickle upstream to someone in charge of employment and fingers crossed, you’ll be offered a place or put on a list. Even if they can’t offer you anything, you’ll have a stunning reference to move on with.
HR teams will spend probably less than a minute skim reading your covering letter and CV, you want to stand out, seem somehow impossible for them to refuse. They’ll hopefully call you to interview, as long as you’re cheerful, well spoken, give intelligent answers and don’t seem too flustered, you should be on to a winner! Good Luck!