Internships are like gold dust, and finding work experience can be as difficult as finding a paid job. It’s no surprise some students can feel disheartened. As well as supposedly helping you to stand out from the crowd of desperate jobseekers, work experience and internships are important rungs on your career-ladder, providing skills you can’t learn in the classroom.
I’ve spent my morning scanning ‘Vacancy’ pages and slogging through lengthy applications in the hope of getting a glimpse at some short-term, unpaid work. As unappealing as that may sound, with my impending graduation this year and the jobs market being competitive as it is, experience like this is indispensable for students like myself.
If you’re lucky enough to know someone in the industry you want to go into then you have a golden advantage you mustn’t waste. Contacts are everything, particularly if you’re looking for someone willing to have an undergraduate-shaped shadow with them for a week or two. As the saying goes, ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know!’
But not everyone has this luxury. As important as networking is, sometimes you simply don’t have the contacts you need. In times like this the best thing to do is swallow your pride and put yourself out there. Having found myself short of options, I added the head of a department in a company I want to work with on LinkedIn… and he accepted! With some encouragement from my Dad, I sent him a message expressing my enthusiasm and asking if he could put me in touch with someone who could arrange some work experience. It felt somewhat like a weird dating-app moment, and I’ll be twice as gutted if he ‘ghosts’ me, but hey, I’m glad I’ve done it.
While our ultimate goal at university is to finish with a degree, there are so many other facilities available for students to take advantage of. CareerCentral offers appointments with careers advisors, as well as group talks and workshops on a range of different industries. Even speaking to your lecturers and advisor may help. You never know who may have brilliant contacts and suggestions.
It’s tough, and I can’t help but feel a little helpless as I send off my application to join the other thousand applying for one placement. But if you’re proactive and approach the right people with enthusiasm you’re already on the first rung.